I’ve often said that all you need to make a great film is a strong story, some good actors and a camera. Never Rarely Sometimes Always proves this almost better than any movie I’ve seen because it has little else yet it is brilliant. I don’t want to downplay the work of the editors, the composer, the costume people, make up, sound, lighting and everyone else because those things have clearly gone into this film but it really feels like the director has just followed her two teenage actors around a series of real locations and told them what she needed them to do in each scene. The film doesn’t even really have a script of any note but it is by turns captivating, terrifying, beautifully emotional and incredibly powerful.
The film follows seventeen year old Autumn who discovers she is pregnant and doesn’t want to/cannot have the baby. It seems that her home and community in Pennsylvania would not be supportive of her, especially not if she chooses to have an abortion so she begins to search for other solutions, leading to a secret trip to New York to have the operation there. As you would imagine from this précis, this is not always an easy movie to watch but as it follows Autumn on her journey it proves to be an important and rewarding journey for the viewer too. Writer/director Eliza Hittman doesn’t over play anything, quite the opposite, and much goes unexplained but she gives you just enough (and no more) for you to fill in some of the blanks yourself and come to some heartbreaking conclusions and challenges to your early assumptions.
The other aspect of the story is built around Autumn’s cousin who simply and unquestionably does what she needs to to support someone in need. This young woman Skylar is prepared to go to great lengths and she asks nothing in return. As a result your heart will swell for her as much as it does Autumn. In both of these areas; female choice and female friendship, the movie explores a very distinct female experience in a wonderfully touching way. At times this felt like a gender switched, modern day version of Midnight Cowboy as these two young women have to get by in New York with minimal funds and desperate needs, even though key aspects of the story are very different. Celebrated as that film is though, this is better and more essential than any story about a couple of white guys.
Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder are both superb in the lead roles. Ryder appeared on Broadway in Matilda and will appear in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story but I am sure that this will lead to great things for both of them. The film only made about $16,000 at the US box office but this was partly down to the closure of cinemas and it is doing well there and here on Video on Demand.
The title Never Rarely Sometimes Always refers to the answers Autumn is required to select in response to a series of questions she is asked in the clinic but your answer to the question of whether you should watch this film is definitely.