Director: Eliza Hittman
Screenwriter: Eliza Hittman
Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder
Never Rarely Sometimes Always follows the journey of a seventeen year old girl making her way to New York to have an abortion. The protagonist of the film, Autumn, played by Sidney Flanigan, realizes she needs to travel to New York for the procedure because her hometown in Pennsylvania doesn’t allow minors to have it done without a parent’s consent. Autumn is a soft-spoken young girl who the viewers can notice doesn’t try to be the center of attention or a girl that constantly needs comfort from other people. She finds her support throughout the film from her cousin, Skylar, played by Talia Ryder, who is also just as young and not in need of any spot light. They make their way through New York together. The close relationship between these two is not shared through any dialogue, considering the movie provides very little of it, but through their unwavering protection of one another.
The film carries a soft tone throughout. Although Autumn is dealing with incredible emotions, it is not shown through dramatic scenes or screaming monologues. Flanigan gives a memorable performance that transcends off a script of very little lines, but shares a very real and harrowing story. As Autumn discovers she’s pregnant and becomes determined to terminate and erase the happening of it, the audience can sympathize with her feeling of loneliness and desperation. Viewers can see her struggle to find control in her own life again as she pierces her own nose immediately after finding out she’s pregnant.
The film highlights the difficulties young women face daily. As she returns to the women’s clinic for a sonogram, she is asked if she has any knowledge about abortion. She doesn’t. The receptionist proceeds to play an obviously outdated informational video that only explains the sin of abortion. Not only are there no accessible resources to Autumn about abortion in her area, but the film showcases how dangerous the world can be for young women. Her and Skylar work in a supermarket where they must put up with a predatory boss, Autumn then goes home to a stepfather that mocks her and chooses to make inappropriate sexual comments in front of her and her younger sisters and is later harassed on a subway by a man who begins to masturbate while watching her.
Hittman Also explores the type of predator that can come across as nice and normal. A young man pursues Skylar on the bus and convinces her to give him her number. He continues to text her, trying to get her to hang out with him. After the girl’s trip that they believed was going to last a day turns to three, they run into money issues and can’t afford a bus ticket home. After Skylar decides to meet up with the guy and the girls hangout with him for a night, she asks if he could help them out with money. He agrees, but makes sure Skylar goes with him to the ATM alone. We later see him making out with Skylar against a pillar where she very obviously looks uncomfortable and not into it. Only after, does he lend her money.
Before Autumn’s procedure, the watchers learn that this type of control from a man is not new to her. In a difficult scene that gives us the reason behind the title of the film, Autumn is asked a series of questions about her past relationships. She can respond to these questions with either “never”, “rarely”, “sometimes” or “always”. She’s asked a series of intense questions. The answers to the questions concerning her partner begin to sound troubling. Once the questionnaire gets to the question “have you ever been forced to do a sexual act when you didn’t want to?”, Autumn becomes unable to respond. Its revealed that Autumn has been abused and raped by past partners. This is the only scene in the film that Autumn expresses any emotion. Watching a young girl being asked these questions in a monotone way and realizing she is a victim of rape is torturous, but unfortunately this a real story for too many young women.
I believe the decision to never identify the father is very telling for this story. This story is not about him or for showing the viewers his monstrous ways. That’s a story too many women already know. This is a story about a young girl whose life and body has been affected due to the harm she’s received and the agonizing journey she has to take in order to get control of her life back. Although this a majorly quiet film, it is not one that leaves the viewer confused about Autumn’s decisions throughout it.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always can be streamed on HBO Max or for rent/buy on Prime Video.
Best Director – Eliza Hittman
Best Female Lead – Sidney Flanigan
Best Screenplay – Eliza Hittman
Best Supporting Female – Talia Ryder
Best Cinematography – Hélène Louvart
Best Editing – Scott Cummings
Best Actress – Sidney Flanigan
Best Original Screenplay – Eliza Hitmann
Best Young Performer – Talia Ryder
Breakthrough Actor – Sidney Flanigan