Content Note: abortion, mention of abuse/rape
Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) lives in a small town in Pennsylvania with her mother (Sharon Van Etten), her siblings and her mother’s boyfriend (Ryan Eggold). Things aren’t great at home, and neither are they great at school where she seems to have trouble with one boy in particular. Her rock is her best friend and cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder). When Autumn realizes that she is pregnant, she knows that her only option is to go to New York to get an abortion. So she and Skylar pack their bags and set off. But getting an abortion really isn’t a simple thing, especially when you’re underage and poor.
I had high expectations for Never Rarely Sometimes Always and it absolutely fulfilled them. It’s a fantastic piece of feminist cinema.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is completely comitted to the “Show Don’t Tell” philosophy. It’s calm, understated filmmaking that makes the film feel almost like a documentary. That approach leaves all the room to focus on the characters and the things they have to go through.
And dammit, they have to go through so much just to get a simple healthcare procedure, starting with the misinformation Autumn gets in her local clinic (run by a religious organization). Going to another state, stealing money, navigating a strange city, having to wait, running a gauntlet through anti-abortion-activists, and all in the most vulnerable of states. I shudder to think how many people have to go through this, and maybe even have to go through it alone if they aren’t lucky enough to have a Skylar of their own.
Hittman hints at who the father could be and that there is probably more to the story, but it ultimately isn’t important. The film’s focus are the many impossibilities women have to face everyday, not just with regards to abortion, but honed to a fine point when it comes to it in particular.
Flanigan and Ryder are fantastic. I was ready to watch them for two more hours, and I hope we will see many more movies with them. Just as I hope that Hittman will continue to make feminist films that will stay with you for a long time – just like Never Rarely Sometimes Always.