An abortion drama told introspectively from the perspective of two teenage girls who must chart their own path in this tender third feature by rising filmmaker Eliza Hittman.
Dir. Eliza Hittman
2020 | USA | Drama | 101 mins | 1.85:1 | English
NC16 (passed clean) for disturbing/mature thematic content, language, some sexual references and teen drinking
Cast: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Theodore Pellerin
Plot: A pair of teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania travel to New York City to seek out medical help after an unintended pregnancy.
Awards: Won Silver Bear – Jury Grand Prize (Berlinale); Won U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award (Sundance)
International Sales: United International Pictures
Subject Matter: Moderate – Abortion, Teenage Identity, Womanhood
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: The Projector
After showing signs of promise from her first two features—It Felt Like Love (2013) and Beach Rats (2017)—American indie filmmaker Eliza Hittman is back with another outing in what is her most accomplished film to date.
A winner of the Jury Grand Prize at Berlinale and a Special Jury Award at Sundance, Never Rarely Sometimes Always takes the abortion drama and turns it into a tender and introspective tale about two teenage girls who must chart their own path after one of them, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan in an outstanding debut performance) unexpectedly learns that she is pregnant.
They live in rural Pennsylvania where underage abortion is not legalised, so they must make a trip to New York to find medical help.
Hittman’s film is really about their human journey, and not so much about the subject matter’s highly-divisive nature, which makes it refreshing and empathetic to take in.
“I took a test.”
“What kind of test?”
Talia Ryder who plays Autumn’s cousin who tags along is also excellent—in fact, much of the film’s success relies on their brief conversations and long silences, a glance here, an eye-contact there.
There’s a naturalistic if subdued energy to the film, as if everything that they think or feel is operating as a collective undercurrent to their external reality.
The title of the film will hit you startlingly in a key emotional sequence shot in a long take, but the scene that best captures for me the essence of Hittman’s work involves Autumn reluctantly singing a song in a spontaneous karaoke session.
It speaks to the human condition—that for as long as we live, we need to constantly navigate between a reality of hope and a reality of hopelessness.