Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a movie that will stick with you long after you see it. Eliza Hittman’s latest film is a quietly powerful film that beautifully captures friendship, desperation, and determination with painstaking authenticity that you won’t shake.
Seventeen-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) is living a relatively boring life in rural Pennsylvania working as a cashier at the local grocery store with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder). When Autumn finds out that she is pregnant, she and Skylar scrape up as much as they possibly can so that they can travel to New York so Autumn can get medical assistance for her unwanted pregnancy.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a movie of powerful simplicity. This is a movie that looks at the desperation one teenager goes through to get rid of a pregnancy that wasn’t planned. Hittman’s realistic script shows the troubles and turmoil a teenage girl goes through when wanting to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy, from googling instant solutions, to being judged at a local clinic, to reaching the point where she must risk her safety to travel across state lines with little money and no plan. At times tough to watch, this is an important film for the times that we live in and one that should be viewed by all, but especially those who don’t understand the struggle of an unwanted pregnancy.
What Hittman does best is keep the film grounded while also putting our characters in realistic situations and dilemmas. The struggles Autumn and Skylar face feel like issues that could happen tomorrow to some other poor girls. Issues like lack of money, going to the wrong clinic, not planning properly, and not having a place to sleep in New York City all happen to Autumn and Skylar and we are always wondering how they are going to get themselves out of this situation and back in Pennsylvania safely.
Hittman’s film wouldn’t have worked so well if it weren’t for a spectacular performance from Flanigan. In her first on-screen performance ever, Flanigan portrays the desperation and sadness of Autumn with few words. Everything she is feeling is in her posture and her eyes. She has one mission and one mission only and that is to get to New York and take care of this unwanted pregnancy and watching her give everything she has to try and not breakdown and complete her mission is incredible. This will be a performance I will remember the rest of the year. Ryder is equally as good as Autumn’s cousin, Skylar, who defines what family is as she sticks with her cousin through everything and is willing to help out without any questions. This is terrific work from two young actors.
This review was tough to write because words don’t to Never Rarely Sometimes Always justice. This is Eliza Hittman’s best film to date. It is a powerful, raw, realistic look at an issue that still effects many girls today. Led by two breakout performances and unflinching direction, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is one of the most powerful film experiences I have had in a long time.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always premiered in the U.S. DRAMATIC section at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
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