Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Written and Directed by: Eliza Hittman
Starring: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Eetten
Film has a way of subliminally sounding an alert, or a call-to-action for its audience, namely a cry for help in a social setting. Eliza Hittman’s junior film, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” which made its premiere at Sundance earlier this year is such a film.
Yet, it does not come across as trying to address the concerns of either side of this issue, that of unplanned pregnancy and ultimately, abortion. Rather, Hittman’s story and direction is focused on presenting an unbiased look into an unplanned pregnancy and abortion.
The structure of HIttman’s story is such that it is completely told from Autumn’s point of view; her emotions and mental state are front and center. Very few people enter her world view, and that is to keep our focus on Autumn and her journey.
Sidney Flanigan’s performance keeps our focus front and center on Autumn. She radiates self-assuredness as if she is holding back on some piece of information. Of course, the story reveals this hidden information, but the strength in the film’s story and the character is in her resolve to end the pregnancy.
For this, she must rely on her cousin, Skylar (Talia Ryder). There is a level of friendship between Autumn and Skylar that I did not expect; a form of support which replaces absent parents. Autumn’s parents are present, but they seemed distant from this situation, perhaps intentionally; all of Autumn’s interactions with the people in her field of view are informed by her attention to those individuals.
Hittman’s perspective as a director, based on her research, is varied, and her work with Planned Parenthood in particular informs the characters’ decision to make the journey from Pennsylvania to New York City, where her parents won’t find out about the abortion, because she is underage.
That’s not the story’s most important aspect though, and when they get to New York City, you can see why both Autumn’s and Skylar’s reactions to their surroundings are completely different: money is tight, they don’t have a place to crash in the city and to make matters worse, a young guy is hitting on Skylar.
This gives rise to the isolation that seems to come crashing in on Autumn as the procedure is required to be done in two stages. Yet, the people who are there to support Autumn are careful to really make sure that she is sure before progressing with the procedure, part of Hittman’s effort to create an unbiased character study.
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” reflects on the questions we ask of ourselves in situations that arise out of carelessness. The story is careful to paint the picture that those situations are not always within our control, a direct reflection of the film’s title. This film hits hard in all the right places, thanks to a very strong performance from Sidney Flanigan.