Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

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Director: Eliza Hittman
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Certification: 15
Starring: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Ryan Eggold, Sharon Van Etten, Kelly Chapman, Kim Rios Lin, Drew Seltzer, Carolina Espiro

You'd think, in the year 2020, people would have better things to worry about than a woman's right to decide what to do with her own body. But abortion remains a thorny issue, and still feels like a taboo movie topic, as though cinema hasn't moved on since 1974's Black Christmas.

Upon discovering she's pregnant, 17 year old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) can't get the support she needs to have an abortion. Seeking help from her cousin, Skylar (Talia Ryder), the pair board a bus to New York, intent on getting Autumn the medical procedure she needs.

When it comes to describing the vast power of films, the best summation comes from celebrated film critic, Roger Ebert. He called movies "the most powerful empathy machine", for how it allows you to walk in someone else's shoes, and gain a better understanding about somebody entirely different than yourself. That quote rang in my head while watching this film, bearing witness to the tough circumstances which had to be faced by our leads, made by people who don't have their best interests at heart.

Upon discovering she's pregnant, Autumn's approaching the idea of abortion sees her forcibly given literature on adoption, and made to watch an anti-abortion video. Despite working at a crisis pregnancy centre, it's clear the doctor is ignoring this young girls pleas for help, and acting only in favour of her own beliefs. As a result, we see the amount of unnecessary hoops the pair must jump through, all because of Autumn's choice of what to do with her own body.

It's frustrating to see these unfair occurrences, all of which were drawn from first-hand witnessing by the writer and director, Eliza Hittman. Her approaching of the subject matter is handled with such grace, as we see these injustices through the perspectives of our two young leads, as the reserved and humanist story never threatens to become preachy.

What sticks in the mind is the films key scene, where the films title comes into play. Autumn is asked a series of personal questions within a clinic, to which the answers correspond to the films title, of "Never, Rarely, Sometimes, and Always". The unfolding scene is full of such power thanks to Sidney Flanigan's stunning performance, as she says so much, while saying so little. It makes for an utterly affecting scene, which is just a part of one of the best films of 2020.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is available to rent on VOD.