Never Rarely Sometimes Always shows in powerful detail how a 17 year old girl from Pennsylvania manages to travel to New York City for an abortion. The film is as real and difficult as the journey was. You can watch it on HBO Max.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always was written and directed by Eliza Hittman. Most of the behind the scenes names are women. The story stars Sidney Flanigan as Autumn, the pregnant girl.
Autumn lives in a gloomy home with a dad (Ryan Eggold), who belittles her, a mother (Sharon Van Etten), who tries her best, and two younger siblings. Autumn plays guitar and sings in a school talent show. Autumn works in a supermarket with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder).
Skylar figures out what Autumn’s problem is. Autumn goes to a clinic in her home town where they do everything they can to stop her from wanting an abortion. So Skylar steals some money from the supermarket till and goes with Autumn on a bus to NYC.
These two are mostly silent. What is there to say? They have to get where they are going and it isn’t a fun family vacation. I thought of Unpregnant, which I saw just a couple of weeks ago. Both were about 17 year old girls who couldn’t get abortions in their home states. But the tone and look of the two of them was very different.
The thing that was similar between Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Unpregnant was the kind, nonjudgmental treatment the girls received in the clinics. The process was explored more in Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Part of the reason was that Autumn was further along and had to have a different procedure. What was alike about them was how relieved the girls were when it was over.
Autumn and Skylar came from grim circumstances. They had money issues and no place to sleep. But they didn’t give up. They met a guy on the bus, Jasper (Théodore Pellerin). Skylar used her good looks and a well-told story to get money for bus fare home from him.
Often silent, without music, and told in the rawest way possible, the film was extraordinary and gripping. The performances, especially from Sidney Flanigan, were contained – emotions were tamped down out of necessity.
It’s women telling these stories, because it’s women who recognize the problem we have in this country with safe and legal access to proper women’s health care.
The film was released in the spring. It made several of the “best of 2020” lists this year, which is why I looked for it. I’m glad I was able to watch it.
Here’s a look at the trailer.
Have you seen this film? What did you think of it?