“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” leaves an imprint

Autumn keeps her feelings close to the vest.

by Michael Bergeron

There are some film titles that are impossible to remember the first time you hear them. These titles seemingly connect a series of random words together. Some are easier than others to recall.

On a scale of one-to-ten the low end of the scale would include “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” while the higher end would encompass titles like “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”

A movie that was scheduled to open this week and which will now be available via video-on-demand direct to your living room courtesy of the usual platforms had a title I couldn’t remember right up to the moment I sat down to watch it.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” deals with the subject of abortion. After an emotional scene where the title is referenced I realized I would never forget the words in their exact order.

Writer/director Eliza Hittman dwells in her character’s lower middle class ennui. The story weaves European atmosphere and kitchen sink realism with equal intensity in contrast to the gadget laden plot devices of American films.

A teenager in rural Pennsylvania (Autumn played with conviction by newcomer Sidney Flannigan) travels by bus to New York City to get an abortion. In her hometown she would need her parents’ permission. Autumn enlists the help of her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder soon to be seen in “West Side Story”) both to accompany her as well as to provide a cover story for her overnight absence from home.

Autumn keeps her feelings close to the vest. She’s not a wisecracking pregnant teen like Ellen Page in “Juno” so much as a sheltered young femme who quietly accepts the derision of more popular school mates and the unease at the dinner table from her own dysfunctional family.

Once in the big city the girls find that their on-hand cash won’t get them far and that the medical procedure, while legal, will take at least a couple of days.

A third character, Jasper played underhandedly by Théodore Pellerine, offers to party with the girls and trades numbers with Skylar.

The entire journey involves the two girls being constantly confronted with people and situations wherein they must make moral decisions. Scenes alternate between finding unlikely allies and the reality of getting kicked out of the bus station in the middle of the night. Also complicating matters is that Autumn is well into her second trimester.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” puts its main protag through hell. One of the many hoops Autumn must jump through includes a therapy session where a psychologist queries her: questions about abuse, her living conditions and other intimate subjects.

Autumn must answer on a scale of one-through-four. One is never, two is rarely, three is sometimes and four is always. This scene totally devastates the viewer if they have even the slightest iota of compassion for what Autumn is experiencing. And Flannigan elicits that sentiment not through dialogue but through her gaze and her silence.

If “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” has a flaw it’s the fact that the entire 72-plus hours she spends in Gotham, Autumn never once has the scene where she talks on her cell to her parents and explains why an overnight sleepover has extended to a three-day odyssey.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” goes live Friday, April 3 on video-on-demand.

VOD essentially means the customer can stream the movies in their living rooms through as a utility such as VUDU, Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, Fandango Now and xFinity. The latter cable company, owned by the same parent company as Universal Studios, has along with Sony’s Columbia Pictures led the way in offering movie theater timetable films (“Bloodshot” or “The Invisible Man”) direct to your casa. Universal owns Focus Features the distributor of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.”

Other current VOD premieres:

  • “Trolls World Tour,” from Universal and scheduled for movie theaters next week will now premiere in homes on April 10. 
  • “The Virtues” a timely drama evolving over four episodes from British director Shane Meadows and starring Stephen Graham (Tony Pro in “The Irishman”).
  •  “Swallow,” from IFC Films, gives credence to a weird obsession with devouring objects that aren’t meant to go down one’s throat. Producer and star Haley Bennett as a repressed spouse who acts out her aggression with esophageal self-abuse should become the next go-to actress.




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