Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

“I just don’t know what I want to do right now.”“I just don’t know what I want to do right now.”

“I just don’t know what I want to do right now.”

Never Rarely Sometimes Always – these four simple words hold an astonishing amount of weight given the context in which they appear. In this case, these four words are ways of identifying a woman’s decision to abort a pregnancy. For Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) these four words give insight into her background with key information and clues on her home and sex life (outside of the surface encounters that we see) and who may be the father of her child. Though things aren’t explicitly said aloud by Autumn on her past encounters, so much information is given leaving it up to interpretation.

Autumn is a 17-year-old typical high school student who happened to get pregnant. The father isn’t said aloud by name or shown on screen, but other students seem to know of her secret as Autumn performs in a talent show. After going to a clinic to confirm the pregnancy, her cousin Skyler (Talia Ryder) finds out and the two hatch a plan to travel to New York where the laws aren’t as conservative (a parent must give consent for a minor to have an abortion). The rural town of where Autumn lives wouldn’t take too kindly even if she decides to give the baby up for adoption. What would her family think? 

Writer director Eliza Hittman gives Never Rarely Sometimes Always an intimate feeling that focuses more on the procedure than the dramatic moments that may have been exploited. That’s not to say there is no drama whatsoever, in fact the dramatic moments give the story its depth that would be missing if this as a straight by the books film. A more dramatic feature may play the topic of abortion a little too safe, Eliza doesn’t pull any punches with her script. 

“I want to spend some time talking about your relationships because they can effect your health.”

Eliza lets her character decide what the right decision is to make not anyone else. That’s the only way this feature film can be presented otherwise the whole point is missed. After all no one can make this type of decision unless you’re the one that’s pregnant. The choice should always be with the woman and the message is clear in this film. Maybe it’s a response to the recent laws that have been passed. It’s a powerful statement regardless that no one can force you to do something with your body unless you are making the decision yourself. 

Autumn knows immediately that she isn’t ready to be a mother and is willing to do just about anything in the beginning to terminate the pregnancy before Skyler finds out. These scenes are tough to watch but for someone who thinks they are out of options – it’s the only way out. Choosing two unknowns as the lead characters pays off with strong performances. Sydney takes advantage of the situation by putting everything into her role which shouldn’t go unnoticed. With cinematography handled by Hélène Louvart the close-up shots feel like we are seeing Autumn’s life in a first-person perspective. Everything she is experiencing and the decisions she makes are felt in a confidential manner. 

Autumn and Skyler’s plan is to travel to Manhattan to get the procedure done. This mini road trip changes their relationship with each other. The two are cousins – Autumn is more reserved but rebellious and Skyler is more open and carefree. Autumn and Skyler’s relationship blossoms as the two bring out the best in each other while maintaining their childlike innocence. Innocence used as a theme is striking given the story at hand. Autumn is dealing with a traumatic event, but she never loses herself or her innocence in the process. As the story moves forward its less about what other people may think of her and more about making her own choices and owning up to them despite what others may think and feel.     

“This city has a lot of secrets.”

Autumn and Skyler have never made it outside of their hometown so when they arrive in the big apple, everything feels overwhelming and claustrophobic.  How can anyone not feel lost and overcome with fear in Manhattan, it’s a big city that never stops moving and if you do, you’ll surely get run over. How New York is presented in Never Rarely Sometimes Always with the loud sounds, tight spaces and bright lights is a typical first-time experience for some people, but Autumn and Skyler don’t appear to be phased by the sheer scope of the city landscape. 

Even when the two meet the overly persistent Jasper (Theodore Pellerin) it doesn’t slow them down. Instead, they use Jasper as an opportunity when all seems lost. Jasper brings Autumn and Skyler even closer together if it was possible (which it is). Skyler will do just about anything for Autumn and to get rid of him in the process. Jasper isn’t subtle when it comes to what he wants from Skyler and Eliza isn’t either in the way her characters motivations are presented. There is no ulterior motive in these scenes with Jasper and there shouldn’t be a second thought to it. Skyler and Autumn run out of bus fare to get home and although Jasper doesn’t fully get what he wants Skyler is comforted by Autumn when doing what she does for them to get home. 

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a powerful story about a woman’s right to make her own choices. Its more about the accuracy and precise attention to detail of the entire procedure instead of the drama. Direction, script, cinematography and acting are all standouts in this feature debut by Eliza Hittman. Sydney Flanigan and Talia Ryder give strong profound performances in their leading roles which should launch successful careers for both actresses. If I were to rate Never Rarely Sometimes Always, I’d rate it a 5 out of 5. 

So, tell me guys, have you seen Never Rarely Sometimes Always and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is written & directed by Eliza Hittman is Rated PG-13 and has a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. Never Rarely Sometimes Always was released on April 3, 2020 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 41 minutes. Never Rarely Sometimes Always can be streamed on HBO Max.

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