Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language
Sidney Flanigan as Autumn
Talia Ryder as Skylar
Théodore Pellerin as Jasper
Ryan Eggold as Ted
Sharon Van Etten as Mother
Director: Eliza Hittman
Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin, Skylar (Talia Ryder), travel across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.
I only knew a little bit about Never Rarely Sometimes Always. I heard that the plot had something to do with a teenager who is travelling somewhere to get an abortion, and that a lot of people have been calling it one of the best movies of the year. Really didn’t know what to expect going into it but it’s quite great and one of the more surprising movies from 2020.
First of all, you should know going into Never Rarely Sometimes Always that it has a slow pace. It did have my attention throughout its 100 minute runtime however. It’s also a movie that’s not that so focused on dialogue, there’s definitely dialogue but a lot less than you’d expect. The movie makes a lot of use out of silence and it ends up speaking volumes by saying little. It really does tell a story through subtext and silence, from the character’s actions, the performances and the direction. As a result of this subtle approach, it actually makes the movie feel all the more real. The director resists going all in on unwelcome melodrama or larger ‘dramatic’ and overtly emotional moments, and instead focused attention more on feeling and being natural. It’s quite empathetic and honest too, and ends up being very powerful. The highlight of the whole movie was a scene where the title Never Rarely Sometimes Always actually is brought up, I won’t reveal the context of the movie. In terms of flaws there weren’t many, but I did want more development and characterisation of the leads. With that said, it’s a subtle movie so more might be picked up on a second viewing, and it is the sort of movie where you deliberately aren’t given the full context of everything, or know for sure why certain characters do what they do.
The acting is great from everyone but ultimately it comes down to its two leads with Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder who are both impressive in their roles as cousins, who are going on this trip to get Flanigan’s character an abortion. The first time performance from Flanigan was particularly fantastic, and it’s among the best from 2020. Both performances are subtle and powerful, the two of them really do feel like friends and cousins on their journey together. The direction deserves credit with regard to the performances too, especially with how natural and genuine they felt. The subtle approach to the story also goes towards the acting, with the performances saying a lot without needing to actually say much, or even anything.
Eliza Hittman is the director of this movie, and having seen her work here, I do want to check out her other movies now. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a brilliant exercise in visual storytelling. The whole movie feels incredibly authentic from the sets to the sound and the lack of music for the most part. The simple yet effective cinematography and camerawork plays a big part too, especially with the choices of what to focus and linger on. An example is that prior scene I mentioned where the title comes into play in the movie. In that scene, most of the camera is just watching Sidney Flanigan’s face and expressions, and that was so effective and powerful. The decision not to cut away often just added so much to that scene.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a raw, nuanced and powerful movie, it’s incredibly directed, and is fantastically acted by its leads. I do think that you sort of need to know what to expect going into it, and the slow pacing and the more quieter approach to the whole movie might turns some people off. However, I think that it’s definitely a movie you should see, and it’s among the best movies released in 2020.