Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

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Copyright: Focus Features

Maybe my hatred of babies, children and generally, other people, makes me impervious to the heartstrings Never Rarely Sometimes Always looks to pull. Pulling apart the hot topic issue of abortion, director Eliza Hittman presents a film crafted with definite care. A road trip movie with rather banal tones throughout pave the way in making a film that, at its core, lacks real depth. 

It’s hard not to drag some form of politics into this film, because depending on how you view the subject matter will change your viewing entirely. When looking to highlight such a point of contention, there’s no need to add moments that don’t quite add anything, other than a weird disconnect that’ll remind audiences that what they’re seeing is merely a reflection of a bundle of cases. A shop employee that licks people’s hands when they try and post money through is one of those moments. There are, of course, moments that are thrown in that, I would assume, detail how it is dangerous for a woman to walk dark streets or how they feel to put up with behaviour that is frankly disgusting. It’s an important topic to discuss, but the furthest the film goes is to use these moments as filler in-between pivotal plot moments. 

Conventional, independent cinema from America doesn’t sit that well with me on its merits of style anyway, so Never Rarely Sometimes Always falls at the first hurdle of filmmaking. It feels much like the offices and waiting rooms we spend much of our time in, with many clinical scenes throughout that bring such a cold feeling to the movie. It’s fitting, but Hittman’s direction doesn’t add much in the way of conveying any interesting camera work. Sidney Flanigan’s performance does have a few key moments that shine a light on how great a performer she is, conveying a few emotional moments with a certain nuance that don’t downplay the severity of the message, but don’t turn it into a fluff piece. Nowhere near emotionally manipulative in a way that feels aggressive or harsh, but certainly in a manner that feels rather guiding. 

Supporting performers litter the rest of the film, and most of them aren’t all that interesting. We’re provided little flickers of insight into the background of Autumn’s life, but it’s all very droll and typical of this sort of movie. So little detail is presented and we’re more or less left to fill in the gaps ourselves. Skylar (Talia Ryder) tags along on this journey around the country in what is a rather bland performance, acted well but with no emotion on display. The same can be said for most of the one-scene performers, who offer up that disconnected feeling.  

A certainly important message is wrapped away in Never Rarely Sometimes Always, it’s just a shame that everything around it is rather boring. My issue is solely with the filmmaking, the contemporary style of the story certainly has promise, but it’s filmed in such a modern, mundane manner that any form of enjoyment or lesson to come from this is lost almost entirely. It feels cold and disconnected, rather than engaged with its characters, shallow husks with space merely for projections of agendas.