Eliza Hittman gorgeously wrote and directed Never Rarely Sometimes Always, available now for the price of two tickets at your living room tv screen. Not ideal conditions, I realize, but dang if this isn’t the best dramatic film I’ve seen this year. Please shoot me if Corpus Christie is my last ever movie theater experience because that flick was far more distressing than First Reformed.
Back to the topic at hand, Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always (winner of Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize) is dripping with verisimilitude from the opening scene of the small washed out town high school talent show. This IS rural America. The grocery store cashier jobs, the bleak lower middle class upbringings, the implied incest, and undercurrent of sexual promiscuity are all woven into a film centering on sisterhood.
Much like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, women rally together in times of unwanted pregnancy, yet Never Rarely Sometimes Always is more emotionally accessible.
The lead, Sidney Flanigan (who stars as Autumn) hails from Buffalo, NY, but I swear I loved her ability and vulnerability before ever knowing she was bred in my backyard. Her cousin Skylar is played by Talia Ryder, who delivers the goods as both feminine toughie and nightingale of sacrifice. According to IMDB, she’ll be starring Spielberg’s upcoming West Side Story remake, and if her Ariana Grande look-alike features go deeper, may have singing and dancing talent to boot.
The male lead who stood out was the twenty-something bus rider who courts Skylar, Theodore Pellerin, whose IMDB page is the most experienced of the three.
I found myself talking to the screen, telling the characters what to do, proof that I was moved enough to try to intervene. Unlike Corpus Christi, I didn’t ‘walk out’ of the living room feeling bleak. If anything, I felt uplifted and optimistic about our deeply rooted human bond. And that’s exactly the recipe we need right now.