Earlier this year, Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” earned acclaim and won awards at both Sundance and the Berlin Film Festival. The uncompromising indie is a very raw moviegoing experience but a vital one to watch now. Focus Features had to pivot to VOD when theaters shut down after its opening weekend due to the Coronavirus. This is an impactful and haunting abortion drama not to be missed!
The short synopsis: Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin, Skylar, travel across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery, and compassion.
The first act is set in rural Pennsylvania and so authentic we watch the working-class residents drinking the local beer Yuengling. (I was very impressed with that small detail.) Autumn lives a typical teenage life on the surface but going deeper more is revealed. The interactions of classmates and the isolation of our main character is a snapshot of GenZ living in Trump’s America. The male characters in her world are unsympathetic to her needs and at times disgusting. The audience feels for Autumn and her journey is like an empowering (and temporary) escape from her cruel world.
Like the desolate PA setting, the scenes from “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” shot in New York City are just as genuine and bleak. Capturing the loneliness and uncertainty of the big city, you can tell this was filmed on the streets in real-time. I watched with distress as the two young girls wandered the city. Both tough and tender moments are consistent throughout the film especially the key moment when a Planned Parenthood official asks Autumn very personal questions. This was a rough moment that earns the title.
Sidney Flanigan’s fantastic lead performance and Eliza Hittman’s poignant direction made “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” very realistic and emotionally harrowing. Sidney Flanigan delivers one of the year’s best breakout roles. Eliza Hittman interjects realism into all of her scenes. This drama reminded me of Eliza’s 2017 movie “Beach Rats,” another gritty coming of age indie with a low key performance from a debut actor. You can feel Hélène Louvart’s up-close cinematography work which embeds the viewer into this world. The movie was produced by Barry Jenkins and Adele Romanski.
Finally, I had the opportunity at Sundance to attend an informative conversation about “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” with Eliza Hittman and actress Sidney Flanigan hosted by IndieWire. I was glad to finally watch the movie. However, I wish this audio was somewhere online.
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is now available to stream on premium VOD!