I know how you feel. It’s coming up to the end of the month and you’ve already seen all the streaming services’ new releases. You’ve even watched a few clunkers that you wouldn’t have given a moment’s notice to if it weren’t for the pandemic. Fortunately, there are some gems out there that probably slipped under your radar. One of them is NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS, which was released in March.
Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanigan) is a 17-year-old living in rural Pennsylvania. When she learns that she is pregnant, she and Skylar (Talia Ryder, soon to be seen in director Steven Spielberg’s remake of WEST SIDE STORY), her cousin and best friend, travel to New York City to have an abortion. Autumn’s pregnancy, though, is further along than she thought, and the girls, who are in way over their heads, are forced to revamp their plans on the fly.
Writer-director Eliza Hittman (TV’s 13 REASONS WHY and HIGH MAINTENANCE) has created a thought-provoking, observational film that sometimes plays like a documentary about the minefield that kids like Autumn have to navigate when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Hittman doesn’t take sides, although pro-lifers would probably say she has. Instead, she lays the situation out on the table for Autumn to decide what’s right for her. Flanigan, who looks like Saoirse Ronan, is powerful in this, her film debut, especially in the scene that gives the film its title. Autumn tells the abortion counsellor that she’s had two sexual relations in recent months. We know from an early scene in the film that one of them is probably a boy in her class but we’re left to speculate on who the other one is. I have my opinion on that and, judging from Autumn’s reaction as the counsellor’s questions start to cut too close to bone, I might be right.
The film had its world premiere in January at this year’s Sundance Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Award for Neo-Realism. A few weeks later, it took home the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Berlinale. Critics seem to be liking this film far more than audiences though. I’ll concede that the pace is slow but not every film should be a fireworks show and this is one story that needs to be plodding so that we can get into the girls’ heads.
NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS is available to rent on VOD platforms like Amazon Prime Video and iTunes. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, August 28th, 8:30 am HK time!
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