Movie review / ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ (M)

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Sidney Flanigan as Autumn in “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” (M) ***

I’LL get to the explanation of the enigmatic title of Eliza Hittman’s third feature film in due course; but first, a few words about her first and second features.

In “It Felt Like Love” (2013), a 14-year-old girl envies the sexual behaviour of her about-to-turn-16 bestie. In “Beach Rats” (2017) a teenaged boy looks online for older men to meet with.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” chronicles two days during which Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and bestie Skylar (Talia Ryder) travel to and from rural Pennsylvania to New York in search of a termination of Autumn’s unintended pregnancy. Ms Hittman’s screenplay and her direction pull no punches in examining that theme. 

So what’s the film’s intention with respect to its intended audience? The answer appears to be a message to teenagers negotiating those physically and emotionally turbulent years while their hormones are driving their behaviour along a track that their brains have yet to develop to deal with the changes.

As cinema, that theme presents one major hindrance. It shouldn’t be a hindrance. But it’s hard to imagine how teenaged boys might respond to it. Think about that when making-see/don’t-see decisions for your sons – not that parents these days have much control over what movies their teenagers see.

Ms Hittman stands for women in girls’ bodies. And for young men who find girls’ bodies not to their taste. In “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, a clinic worker asks Autumn which of those choices most reflects her sexual experiences. Nothing prurient. Just trying to understand a bad experience. I wonder which element of burgeoning sexuality Ms Hittman’s next film will deal with.

At Dendy and Palace Electric

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"Never Rarely Sometimes Always" (M) ***
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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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