Sundance 2020: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Sidney Flanigan appears in Never Rarely Sometimes Always by Eliza Hittman, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film that will certainly resonate with a number of people given that the film deals with an unintended pregnancy.

Eliza Hittman’s follow up to Beach Rats is not going to be for all audiences.  Conservative film goers will most certainly not be fans.  Then again, maybe they’re the exactly the right people who really need to see this film.

Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) leaves work early with her cousin, Skylar (Talia Ryder), after not feeling well.  She’s seen herself in the mirror so she probably knows what’s going on.  After going to the doctor’s office, Autumn starts dealing with the news that she’s pregnant.  She’s not ready to be a mother but the pregnancy center only seems to care about her taking the pregnancy to term.  There are available options but they aren’t telling her. Living in rural Pennsylvania means escaping with Skylar to New York.  Anything that can go wrong naturally does go wrong.  As a result, the two of them are basically let to fend for themselves. This is what happens when they leave for an emergency trip without having done all their research.

As family members go, Skylar is more supportive than Autumn’s parents ever could be.  The fact that Pennsylvania requires parental consent to undergo an abortion means a trip to New York!  Unfortunately for Autumn, the required procedure requires two days in New York.  And money–which they don’t have enough of.  It’s a reality for too many people in their situation.

Hittman clearly does her research here.  Not just with abortion laws from state to state but how people work around them.  Right when think it’s going to be smooth sailing in New York, Hittman starts pulling the tricks out of her sleeve.  It’s not in a bad way but in a way that shows us the reality that many people are dealing with.

This is truly a very intimate film from Hittman.  The fact that it’s being done with such a minimal cast is truly impressive.  On the acting front, the film allows for actresses Talia Ryder and Sidney Flanigan to shine.  One or the other is hardly ever off the screen during the film’s running time.  They deliver performances with so much heart.  It’s the first leading roles for both of their careers.  Get to know their names because they’ll be around for some time to come.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always won’t be for all audiences but it’s such a beautiful well-made film.

CAST:  Talia Ryder, Sidney Flanigan, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten

Never Rarely Sometimes Always held its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Focus Features will open Never Rarely Sometimes Always in theaters on March 13, 2020. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.