Heckled and embarrassed at a school performance, working-class teenager Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanigan) finds no solace with her family afterwards. Getting up early the next day, she checks herself into a local well-woman clinic to get a pregnancy test. It comes back positive. Faced with an unintended pregnancy, Autumn tries to self-abort but now ten weeks since her last period, her options are running out fast.
take a walk inside a seventeen-year-old’s shoes whose fundamental rights are still subject to a postcode lottery.
Set in modern-day Pennsylvania, director Eliza Hittman delivers a sensitively handled drama in ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ which never makes the mistake of tripping over in melodrama or dramatic conceit. Even when the ultrasound “wow-wow-wow-wow” sound of Autumn’s foetus pulls at your heartstrings both, commendable performance of first-timer Sidney Flanigan as Autumn and Eliza Hittman’s touch for taciturn dialogue keeps ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ about its characters first and foremost.
From the creepy hand grabber at the local supermarket where she and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) work at to a father who would rather ignore her than recognise her, male toxicity is endemic. Even when they are later forced to lean on a chance acquaintance (Boy Erased‘s Théodore Pellerin) when they run of out money in New York trying to get Autumn her termination, it comes out at an unspoken price.
As such this one of the true, great strengths of Eliza Hittman’s movie. By disarmingly removing the words that people don’t say in real life and relying upon the silences they do instead, both Autumn and the film are allowed to retain some dignity with their hard-won credibility. Even when it comes to the sobering, revelatory scene to which the movie owes its title where Autumn must answer a series of mandatory questions prior to her procedure, her secret is agonisingly avoided in such a way that it leaves you in no doubt as to the depth of her predicament.
Relatable and realistically presented as neither a straight road nor one twisted for dramatic effect, Julia Holter’s excellent score which has echoes of Brian Eno’s ‘Deep Blue Day‘. Inadvertently dragging your memory back to that scene ‘Trainspotting‘, it unwittingly underlines an awful alternative to which it never labours.
Shorn of high production value, and shot with an aesthetic style which never trips in either drama-documentary or full budget-a-blazing melodrama, ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film that will stay with you for its engaging, yet never presumptuous manner in which it walks a razor blade tightrope.
See it and take a walk inside a seventeen-year-old’s shoes whose fundamental rights are still subject to a postcode lottery.