Misguided values permeate writer-director Eliza Hittman’s desolate abortion-themed drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always. Source: CNS.
The film’s basic message is that it ought to be easier for its protagonist to have her unborn child killed.
Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), a 17-year-old high school student from rural Pennsylvania, is at odds with everything in her hardscrabble environment, including the schoolmate who impregnated her. So, from the time she first suspects that she’s going to have a baby, she’s resolved to do away with it instead.
Discovering, via the internet, that Pennsylvania law requires her to obtain her parents’ permission to have an abortion, Autumn sets out for New York City, accompanied and abetted by her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) who funds the trip by pilfering cash from the supermarket where they both work as checkout clerks. The narrative presents this as justified because the store’s manager is a sexually harassing jerk.
The feminism on offer in Hittman’s script is one that views all males as predators.
The same ideology shapes the movie’s depiction of the staff of a pro-life pregnancy centre back in Autumn and Skylar’s hometown. They’re portrayed as manipulative liars who deliberately mislead Autumn about how far along she is. They also show her a video about the harsh reality of abortion.
Not so, of course, the employees of the Brooklyn Planned Parenthood-style facility where Autumn eventually finds her version of refuge. They couldn’t be more caring or compassionate.
The bottom line in Never Rarely Sometimes Always is that we’re meant to sympathise with – and be troubled by – Autumn’s ordeal. But at least she emerges from it alive.
Review by John Mulderig, CNS
Never Rarely Sometimes Always: Starring Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Kelly Chapman, and Theodore Pellerin. Also, Ryan Eggold and Sharon Van Etten. Directed by Eliza Hittman. Rated M (Mature themes and coarse language). 101 min. CNS advises the film contains a benign view of abortion and theft, a non-graphic aberrant sexual act, brief medical gore, partial nudity, mature references, including to rape and physical abuse, and at least one use each of profane, rough and crude language.
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