Never Rarely Sometimes Always hits you when a pregnant girl is given a multiple choice answer to a question, we have been struggling to deal with on moral compass, “Your partner has made you have sex, when you didn’t want to?” Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always?
What happens when a girl is obliged to answer that question, sitting in clinic to get an abortion. The single description is enough to describe the kind of film we are going to talk about today.
The basic plot of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is about a 17-year-old girl named Autumn (played by Sidney Flanigan), who winds up pregnant in a small american town, Pennsylvania. The state which doesn’t allow abortion, until parental consent is made, and that what makes Autumn to embark a journey to New York city with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) to get Autumn operated. What lies ahead, is a complicated journey, filled with all the hardship that a girl faces (even an american girl) who is all alone in this world, with a life inside her.
Eliza Hittman, the writer-director of the film, has taken up an “issue movie” and has narrated it very beautifully with it’s ruthlessly naturalistic and steadily composed shot. The film appeals to your core emotions and sometimes even influences you, to scrutinize the morals of a man’s society, where a woman is gripped and grasped and definitely suffocated. All the issues raised in the film can be summed in a dialogue, said by Autumn’s cousin Skylar,
“Don’t you ever just wish you were a Dude?”
This really slaps you in the face, questioning the setup we live in, where I genuinely feel that “things aren’t hard any of us” but we as humans, make them inflexible for others, thus making them suffocate. And in Never Rarely Sometimes Always , it is we men, who are to blame, a typical patriarchal male, who just wants to have fun.
Hittman’s approach to screenplay without wasting any time fills us with details of Autumn’s relationship and backstories, which are powerful but in disguise. Hittman doesn’t really want to waste words on taking names to blame but deliver a bigger picture, in a collection sense, that all men are responsible, if a single woman suffers because of a single man.
The scene that provides the film’s title, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is an equally gut-churning back-and-forth when Autumn in a clinic is asked about dark chapters of her past, which are really haunting and emotional.
Sidney Flanigan as Autumn
When we first meet Autumn – an introverted, docile girl, singing a song at her high school talent show, only for a boy, who interrupts her with a shout of “slut!.” Similar behavior is delivered to her, by her openly hostile step-father, which makes her all alone in the world of wolves. When Autumn gets back, and looks at the growing bump in her lower abdomen, that’s when we realise what she is struggling with.
Through Autumn’s journey, Hittman has tried to portray the men predator in our society, which are not rare, not really, but very frequent, if you just look from a woman point of view. Throughout, Hittman makes us feel the weight of pervasive male attention. Whether it’s a flirtatious older supermarket customer, a creeper on the subway, or even an ostensibly harmless college kid who tries to talk up Skylar on the bus, the fear of men intruding their way uninvited into these girls’ lives hangs heavy over everything.
Sidney Flanigan – a first-time actor – who has played Autumn has a very vulnerable aura in her performance, which is multi layered. By design of her character, she doesn’t let you look inside her tragedies, but still you are able to connect with the ironies she is going through. Talia Ryder who plays Autumn’s cousin is the catalyst to one of the most magical moments in the film are the ones that show Autumn and Skylar’s almost telepathic communication. With their shared glance, and just a tiny squeeze of hand, they are to speechlessly convey things to which other films might devote pages of dialogue – not just reactive emotions, but complex decisions, explanations, assurances. Both performances are outstanding.
Eliza Hittman approach to filmmaking in Never Rarely Sometimes Always is filled with artistry that elevates what really matters—her characters. It’s really hard to craft stories about young people that are not limited to single layered college drama. The reason that “Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always” is an impressive piece of work, because Hittman has a deep compassion for the two leads, a pair of young women pushing through a world that is constantly putting barriers in their path. Their journey is remarkable.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always written and directed by Eliza Hittman is a 2020 American-British drama film. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2020.
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