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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Never Rarely Sometimes Always' Review: Searching For Autonomy In Eliza Hittman's Gentle Drama

Sidney Flanigan looking out a bus window
Focus Features

After very recently writing about possibly the worst film title of the year and its particularly awkward use in the dialogue, it’s awesome to see something completely opposite of that. The title of Never Rarely Sometimes Always comes from the absolute best scene in the movie and when you hear it in context, it wraps a warm blanket over the whole story. That is exactly the moment you realise what it has to say to the viewer. Eliza Hittman’s creation is both modern and classical, sombre and courageous as well as hearing and listening.

Something to note is that I’m aware of other films that deal with similar subject matter as a main focus but this is the first one I’ve watched (don’t want to reveal it since the whole plot revolves around it so would be a slight spoiler). Hence there might be some tunnel vision going on but the main story is the most intriguing part of the film, it’s a bit of a mystery in the beginning and then gets revealed as the camera really follows the main character, Autumn, who is played by Sidney Flanigan. Flanigan in her feature debut and another young actress in Talia Ryder (as Autumn’s cousin Skylar) work with each other really well on the screen, making time spent with them feel very real.

The actual script gets a small boost from above average to above good(?) because of some exceptional scene work. Opening at a high school talent show with forecasting musical performance, the above-mentioned title revealing scene with a counsellor and (being vague here) hand-holding during something extremely uncomfortable. Partially connected to that however, there are some issues in the first half like what is going on with the girls’ boss? Or Autumn’s stepdad? Autumn’s social standing? Considering how much the movie offers solutions and no over-the-top drama, those things just come off underdeveloped next to everything else that’s overall great. With either cutting that or expanding Autumn’s life, ”Never Rarely” could’ve reached higher. Luckily it reaches heights anyway.

Smileys: Story, Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, screenplay, cinematography

Frowneys: Some issues with characterisation

Never overbearing, rarely frustrating, sometimes friendly, always compassionate.


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