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Never Rarely Sometimes Always (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jun 2, 2020


Starring Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Theodore Pellerin, Sharon Van Etten, Ryan Eggold, Kim Rios Lin, Drew Seltzer, Carolina Espiro, Denise Pillott, Lester Greene, Amy Tribbey, Guy A. Fortt, Brett Puglisi, Alexander Carney, Brian Altemus, Deepti Menon, April Szykeruk, Alana Barrett-Adkins, Michael Erik, Jingjing Tian and Aurora Richards.

Screenplay by Eliza Hittman.

Directed by Eliza Hittman.

Distributed by Focus Features. 95 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Abortion. It’s a political ticking time bomb; a medical procedure that divides American households, communities, and political parties. People cast their entire votes upon it. To this day, there remains a stigma against women who have it performed, regardless of the difficulty of the decision or the circumstance of the insemination.

Many women remain in the shadows with their choice, but at this point in time, in most places in America, a woman can at least have the procedure performed in a safe, medically appropriate facility without a danger to their health and wellbeing. For now. True stories of those who have made these difficult choices are few and far between, relegated to a side story topic; often the symptom of an already troubled character.

Enter Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

Good filmmaking is visual storytelling. No matter how challenging the topic. And Never Rarely Sometimes Always is that brave film where the central character is seeking an abortion with the very real questions and obstacles that come up along the way. The film is simple, honest, courageous, and emotional without being zealous. It is succinct and haunting and beautifully done. This film is not about politics, it is about human struggle through the eyes of a teenager with little at home support.

17-year-old Autumn (played by Sidney Flanigan) lives in Pennsylvania, a state that requires parental consent for an abortion for any patient under the age of 18. When Autumn suspects that she may be pregnant, she goes to a local women’s pregnancy care center, so common in cities and towns across America.

She can sign in without notifying her mom, however, the spectrum of choices are limited, and focused only on post-delivery – choices to keep or not to keep. In the absence of viable options, Autumn, feeling so alone, tries to take matters into her own hands, but without success.

Days later, after falling ill on shift at work, Autumn confides in her cousin, Skylar (played by Talia Ryder). The two set off by bus to New York City, where an abortion does not require parental consent at 17. As you would expect, the path is not easy, and is in fact made harder when she finds that her estimated date of pregnancy is not what she was told by the pregnancy care center in Pennsylvania and the timeline for care becomes even more difficult.

But Never Rarely Sometimes Always is not about two girls’ journey from rural PA to the big city. There are few subplots or characters that take away from the main simple storyline: a girl seeking medical care. So why was I, the viewer, a nurse, crying through a basic scene going through an intake questionnaire?

Never Rarely Sometimes Always allows the character to quietly share her story often without saying anything at all. There is very little information that we ever learn about Autumn or Skylar’s past or futures. We are living in their present moments and seeing their current situations through their eyes.

We are granted 1 hour and 40 minutes walking in their shoes, with the rare opportunity to empathize. Writer and Director Eliza Hittman gives us this gift-to see what it is like for Autumn and Skylar to live in their day to day – Autumn’s stoicism in the face of her unwanted pregnancy; the faceless, creepy as hell kiss on their hands every night at work as they turn in their end of shift till money; the lingered hand of Jasper on the bus assuming that pretty Skylar is eager for his attention; how Skylar painfully banks on her beauty to be able to get the pair the emergency funds that they need to finally head back to Pennsylvania; and finally, the raw quiet in the clinic where the film gets its name. Never Rarely Sometimes Always are supposedly simple answers on a questionnaire, while Autumn’s silent responses to the questions tell more than we want to imagine, and we know by the clinician’s response that Autumn is not the first to answer in this way.

The Sundance and Berlin Film Festival award winning film Never Rarely Sometimes Always is available to watch starting April 3, 2020 on Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, and other streaming platforms.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: April 3, 2020.

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