The premise of Never Rarely Sometimes Always is simple; Autumn, Sidney Flanigan, a 17-year old, discovers she is pregnant and, together with her cousin Skylar, Talia Ryder (“Sesame Street (TV)”, “Only We Know (Short)”), travels to New York for an abortion.
From that alone you may immediately dismiss the film as ‘not for you’, and that is fair enough. Never Rarely Sometimes Always will garner just such a wide range of responses if you ask a spectrum of people if they enjoyed it.
It is inescapable that writer and director Eliza Hittman (“It Felt Like Love”, “Beach Rats”) has created something that feels very much for generation-z.
You imagine the script for Never Rarely Sometimes Always was as short as the premise. There is so little dialogue throughout that you could be forgiven for thinking that your sound has gone.
But these two teenagers behave exactly as most teenagers do, that is, they get on with the task at hand and speak rarely, grunt a bit, and spend most of their times on their phones or with their headphones in.
In her debut performance Flanigan does well but she is so expressionless, so emotionless that it can be hard to get on her side. Her cousin, meanwhile, Ryder, shows frustration, determination and more, you are never unaware what she is thinking.
What Hittman does spectacularly well is show what goes unsaid. No-one ever asks Autumn who the father is, there is always an assumption that a young girl has just been stupid with a young boy.
At the first test, in her home of Pennsylvania, she is told she is pregnant and around 10-weeks gone. But abortion is not allowed in Pennsylvania without the parents present and Autumn does not want to involve them.
She tries various things to bring on a miscarriage, after looking online; taking copious amounts of vitamin-c, even punching herself vigorously in the stomach. When none of this works, and she is throwing up at work, things go unsaid between the cousins, but they book their bus tickets and head off to NY.
The second scan shows that Autumn is more like 18-weeks gone, and that means she needs to go to a specialist clinic in Manhattan, and it is a two-day procedure. The girls are now running out of money and have nowhere to stay.
Still, what must be done, must be done and so they head to the next clinic and do what they can to kill the time. This mostly involves arcade games and spending some time with Jasper, Theodore Pellerin (“The OA (TV)”, “First Light”), who they met on the bus down.
It is at this clinic when the harder questions come out, with the options Never, Rarely, Sometimes or Always as answers, when the unsaid becomes a little clearer, and a lot more uncomfortable.
This will not be for everyone, which is a shame, as it is a great film. Paradoxically it feels slow, but it races along and Hittman gets everything across you feel she wanted to. It is shot with a rawness and realness that works well and the unsaid is deafening.