Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)
December 20, 2020 12:22 AM - Subscribe

A pair of teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania travel to New York City to seek out medical help after an unintended pregnancy.

Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin, Skylar, travel across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.

Kimber Myers: Never Rarely Sometimes Always doesn’t just examine the hardship of abortion; it also looks at the smaller indignities of identifying as female in 2020. Whether it’s the shudder-inducing daily harassment of teenage girls by their grocery store boss or the random horrors of an empty car on the New York City subway, no place is truly safe for them. However, each challenge offers up solidarity and sisterhood — particularly between Autumn and Skylar — as a balm for what women go through regularly. Thanks to the two young actresses, their friendship feels lived-in and honest, with the type of ride-or-die connection that only real closeness can provide.

Charlotte O'Sullivan: As the young characters wander through New York, at night, all night (they’ve got nowhere to sleep), they meet a pugnacious chicken and endure a hilariously misguided rendition of Wishing by A Flock of Seagulls. I’m not trying to downplay the emotional stuff. But there’s a fine line between gruelling and gripping and Hittman is always on the right side of it.

Katie Rife: Although the film takes its time getting there, all this is made clear in the extended, heartbreaking interview scene that gives Never Rarely Sometimes Always its title. Asked by a counselor to answer questions about domestic violence and sexual coercion with one of those words, Flanigan squirms in her seat in an unbroken medium shot, her eyes darting everywhere but toward the woman addressing her. The most she can squeeze out for some of the questions is a breathy “yeah,” and others she can’t answer at all. This scene gives new context to her situation, while also subtly reinforcing her toughness—and, indeed, that of every woman and girl. Abortion stories are real, and they take place every day, often so quietly that no one but those closest to the people involved even know they’re happening. The power of Hittman’s film lies in that combination of ordinary suffering and extraordinary strength.

posted by Carillon (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I haven't seen this in several months, but it definitely struck a chord with me. I thought it was reasonably well acted for what it was, and that the characters acted in a way that seemed reasonable for the subject matter.

The scene from which the movie gets its name was.. brutal, to say the least.
posted by sacrifix at 2:46 PM on December 21, 2020

One thing I thought was very interesting is how much you can infer from the film without ever getting clarification. Is that her father, her step-father, the mom's boyfriend? There was a review that said the boy who's face she threw water into was an abusive ex-boyfriend, something which makes sense but there's no evidence there. From the wiki summary "She finds them kissing behind a column. Realizing Skylar doesn't like it, Autumn grabs Skylar's hand from behind the column to comfort her" which yeah I can see, but again involves a lot of reading into a situation where there isn't really any evidence. Even the big question of the father, it's implied to be the Ryan Eggold character. Did the women at the pregnancy crises center lie to her? Were they just that incompetent? Unclear as well.

I really appreciated these facts though, it trusts the viewer and doesn't feel the need to spoon-feed these answers, often because they're not important and answering them would feel distracting.
posted by Carillon at 3:21 PM on December 21, 2020

Did the women at the pregnancy crises center lie to her?

Lying is what pregnancy crisis centers do. Pennsylvania requires minors to get parental consent, or a judges consent. Not having seen the movie I'm guessing the crisis center left out the judicial consent option because the only thing crisis centers care about is preventing abortions.
posted by rdr at 11:55 PM on December 21, 2020

No it was about how far along she was, which is why I was curious. Because I could also have seen the implication being they're not competent enough to actually do even that correctly.
posted by Carillon at 10:22 AM on December 22, 2020

I saw this tonight. It was very stressful -- the boss kissing their hands when they hand in the money, ugrugirefhisd. And I wanted Autumn to contact the volunteers to have a place to stay so bad.

One thing I thought was very interesting is how much you can infer from the film without ever getting clarification.

Yeah I did like how it doesn't overexplain. All the unanswered questions gave a lot of narrative impact to the "never rarely sometimes always" scene where we don't really get any more answers but find out it's probably worse than we thought.

Though I did think it was pretty clear that Skylar did not really like the boy from the bus and was just trying to get the bus fare out of him. It's muddied by Skylar and Autumn having a fight right before this but when Skylar starts putting concealer on Autumn I think they both know what the plan is.

This reminded me of 4 months 3 weeks 2 days for obvious reasons.

I also like how the 50's-themed talent show at the beginning goes to the flip side of 50s morality.
posted by fleacircus at 11:08 PM on April 7, 2021

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