Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Jacob Richardson | 29/10/2020

A harrowing, never let up piece of cinema.


Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) lives in rural Pennsylvania with a family that seems fed up with her. When she finds out that she is pregnant, she tries everything she can to get rid of it herself. Unsuccessful, she travels to New York with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) to get an abortion, and the process involves multiple nights wandering the streets and a whole lot of uncertainty.


Never Rarely Sometimes Always, with its muted colour palette and its unrelenting subject matter, is a tough watch for sure. Autumn and Skylar’s struggle to deal with the unintended consequences of a one-sided relationship is a constant uphill battle. Setback after setback is thrown in their way, and this not only is a strong condemnation of the US system, but also an evidential treatment of the human condition. 


Flanigan and Ryder are perfectly cast. Flanigan perfectly conveys the quiet and immutable courage of Autumn, pushing on and on to remove a mistake in her past. Most incredible is her work with a counsellor in New York - a shot that just focuses on her face as she answers progressively more disturbing questions and openly admits the trauma she has experienced previously. Ryder is also a strong performer, bringing a different form of determination as her character does whatever required to help her cousin. 


The film is undoubtedly a worthwhile piece. Without any context, the first thirty minutes feels somewhat adrift, as you struggle to work out what take on abortion this film will take. It’s progressive left-leaning view sweeps in with clarity after that, and the subsequent ratcheting up of tension until the inevitable climax keeps you on the edge of your seat rooting for these two underdog girls against an unjust system set up against them. 


In the end, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a tough but worthwhile watch. You won’t want to go back for a second viewing, but you won’t regret spending time with these characters in their engrossing journey. 


Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a harrowing and unrelenting film that ultimately is a treatise on the ability of young women to overcome a system designed to keep them down.