In “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” first-time actress Sidney Flanigan plays Autumn, a 17 year old in a hollowed-out Pennsylvania town. Autumn’s hardly an extrovert, but she is blessed with a steadfast friend in her cousin Skylar, played by Talia Ryder. The two work as cashiers at the local grocery store.
Autumn is pregnant, with no desire or capacity to become a mother. She first seeks help at a local clinic, where she gets very bad advice. And in Pennsylvania, a minor can’t get an abortion without parental consent — a non-starter in Autumn’s case.
Determined to help her cousin, Skylar lifts some cash from the grocery store and the two set off on for New York City, where abortion is an option. Manhattan is alien territory for the two penniless teenagers. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” follows their journey with understatement and restraint.
Filmmaker Eliza Hittman has worked with non-actors in her previous two intimate art house films, “It Felt Like Love” and “Beach Rats,” and she did it again here with Flanigan.
When Kim Masters spoke to Hittman from New York last March, she knew that because of the pandemic, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” might not open in theaters, as she had hoped.
Focus Features released the movie on demand, and it’s been garnering critical acclaim and awards recognition ever since. The National Board of Review honored Sidney Flanigan with its award for Breakthrough Performance and named “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” as one of the top 10 independent films of 2020. And for the Independent Spirit Awards, it received seven nominations, the most of any film.
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is now streaming on HBO Max.