Review by Camden Ferrell
Never Rarely Sometimes Always premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and also competed at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival. This is the newest movie from director Eliza Hittman (Beach Rats). Easily the best movie of the year so far, this film packs an emotional punch with its minimalist yet extremely realistic and important story.
In this movie, Autumn, a 17-year-old, and her cousin leave their small town in Pennsylvania to travel to New York where she can receive a medical procedure after an unintended pregnancy. This story is simple, but it’s one that is heartbreakingly all too common for many women. It’s a timely premise that Hittman is able to pull of beautifully and with no gimmicks.
Hittman’s script is a masterclass in visual storytelling. The dialogue is stripped down to its ultra-realistic minimum, and it makes the movie much more effective. She is able to manipulate silence in versatile ways throughout. The movie finds a lot of pain, hope, and fear in its moments of silence, and the writing serves as a solid foundation for these techniques that Hittman utilizes throughout.
The performances in this movie are astounding. In her first performance, Sydney Flanigan does some remarkable things playing Autumn. It’s such a complex performance that many actors would not be able to pull off, but Flanigan does it perfectly. There is so much restraint and apprehension in many moments, and Flanigan communicates those feelings in powerful ways. It’s a subtle performance that is masterful nonetheless. She is a perfect lead for this movie, and she will fill your heart with pain and empathy along the way.
This is a movie that could only have been told by a woman. It’s such an essential look at a prominent issue today, and it highlights the many struggles women have when faced with an unintended pregnancy. The movie feels so profound and well-done because of the perspective that Hittman helps convey. It’s such an unpretentious film, and it’s one that is a showcase for Hittman’s ability to effectively tell a story.
What I really enjoyed about this movie, is that it truly is Autumn’s movie. Hittman doesn’t give any other character real depth or focus, and it emphasizes the thematic points of the film very well. This is Autumn’s journey, and what she does with her body is her choice. Hittman doesn’t give anybody else power in Autumn’s narrative, and it allows this film to really highlight her story and why it’s important.
There are many fine details that Hittman includes that make the movie feel thoroughly developed and realistic, and it’s a non-essential but much appreciated part of the film. It’s one of the most raw and realistic films to come out in a long time, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. This is a story that happens every day, and it’s one that needs to be seen now.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always can often be hard to watch, but it’s the best film of the year, and it’s also the most essential movie to come out in recent years. Hittman’s story is profound, and its message is communicated phenomenally. Flanigan gives a beautiful performance that I hope won’t be forgotten come awards season. This is a film that is great to watch and discuss during this time when movie theaters are closed.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is available on VOD now.