- Gareth Crook
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)
Life can be bloody hard can’t it. Even when on the surface it doesn’t seem like it would be. We hide so much. Can’t say so much. Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) has a secret, she’s pregnant. A teenager in a rural community, it’s not joyous news. It’s a problem. It’s not the only problem. She’s trapped in a world of male chauvinism and I’m gonna go out on a limb, we’re all trapped in a world of male chauvinism. She lives in community of men where men are MEN, as in obnoxious pieces of shit with zero respect for women. Be it her peers, or even her father and especially the scumbag politicians that make abortion illegal in her state of Pennsylvania. Autumn doesn’t want this baby. It’s heartbreaking to see her made to suffer so much, so needlessly, so hopelessly. Enter Skylar (Talia Ryder), a sympathetic cousin, friend and coworker. She’s also fucked off with the men around them, utter sleazebags. Skylar does not mess about, she’s there for Autumn in a way that no one else is. Getting her on a bus with money in her pocket to New York. She doesn’t leave her to fend for herself, she’s on that bus with her! The bus is where they meet Jasper (Théodore Pellerin), but I’ll come back to him later. They don’t talk much. I’ve never been a teenage girl, but I guess there’s an understanding there that I’d be a fool to say I get. They’re in New York because the laws there are less draconian. It turns out that the nice people at Autumn’s local clinic have tried to fool her too, lying to her about how pregnant she is. Leaving her to jump through even more hoops to get the care she should’ve been offered from day one. She’s remarkably calm. I’m furious watching this. When they’re left forced to stay in the city overnight, it’s both touching and reassuring to see them so galvanised. It’s a strength that’s tested as the questions keep coming, religious nuts chant outside the clinic, the mounting cost (nothing is free in America), it’s a real slog. Dramatic, but muted, it feels in places like a documentary, playing out in real-time, especially a brutally honest interview Autumn endures at the third clinic, with a multiple choice questionnaire to which the answers are... never, rarely, sometimes, always. To be perfectly honest I’m in pieces throughout a lot of this film. Skylar is the rock, but their bond is tested as money runs short. Jasper turns up again, clearly interested in Skylar. I’d like to tell you he’s the one nice guy in this, some sort of hope for the male gender. He’s not through. He’s just like all the others, a manipulative opportunist. None of this is easy, easy for Autumn, easy to watch. Even those trying to help, just don’t seem warm enough, understanding enough. They say the right things, but it’s lacking. I’m left exhausted, but glad I watched this film. It’s not something you’d say you enjoyed as much as endured and that sounds negative, but in this case it’s really not. This is an excellent film about a situation that’s anything but.