Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Never Rarely Sometimes Always ★★★★½

It took me awhile to get to this on my Watchlist. But so glad I did. Deeply troubling and well-made film about the a young teenage girl trying to get an abortion and the odds against her. There's limited dialogue and no big dramatic moments. But by following her on this journey with her one supportive friend, the viewer witnesses the deep misogyny and societal restrictions still imposed on women in 21st century America.

This film also made me very angry - at the conservative Catholic moralists that have made reproductive rights the centerpiece of their faith, at the casual and overt sexism young girls deal with daily, and the parts of the US that put countless roadblocks on women's choices about their own bodies. Director/screenwriter Eliza Hittman shows this by focusing on each little aggression Autumn and her friend Sklyer face on their journey. The one seemingly sympathetic character, a young man (played by Theodore Pellerin) they meet on the bus to New York City, has no hesitancy in badgering two girls he hardly knows to speak with him, barraging the girl he likes with texts and offers of drinks, and eventually implies he wants to make out in exchange for helping them find a way back to their home in rural Pennsylvania. Boys learn male privilege early, it seems. Even gentle soft-spoken boys.

Great performances by both Sidney Flanagan and Talia Ryder as Autumn and Skylar. For much of the film Autumn seems in a shut-down protective and somewhat dissociated state. But the scene where the counselor starts to ask a series of questions (Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always) to learn whether there has been any sexual violence finally breaks down her shield. It's painful to watch and also heartbreaking.

I hope this wins some awards in the upcoming end-of-year Oscars and other awards ceremonies. I am glad this film got made for the message it sends, and I plan to see more of Eliza Hittman's work.

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