May 2020, Week 3


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 		 [ Elliza Hittman’s coming-of-age story about a teenager seeking
an abortion is heartbreaking and painfully authentic. Hittman has
described her film as “a narrative about a girl carrying around a
lot of pain and burden, and the lonliness of it all".]




 Mark Kermode 
 May 10, 2020
The Guardian

	* [https://portside.org/node/22932/printable/print]

 _ Elliza Hittman’s coming-of-age story about a teenager seeking an
abortion is heartbreaking and painfully authentic. Hittman has
described her film as “a narrative about a girl carrying around a
lot of pain and burden, and the lonliness of it all". _ 

 Sidney Flanigan, left, as Autumn and Talia Ryder as Skylar in Never
Rarely Sometimes Always., Photograph: Angal Field/Courtesy of Focus


From Eliza Hittman, the remarkable writer-director of _It Felt Like
Love__ _and _Beach Rats
comes another drama that manages to blend the gritty authenticity of a
documentary with the poetic sensibility of pure cinema. In her
impressively measured and beautifully understated third feature,
Hittman tells an oft-hidden story of reproductive rights – an
age-old issue that has urgent contemporary relevance. Yet _Never
Rarely Sometimes Always_ never feels polemical. On the contrary, it
is perhaps best described as a perfectly observed portrait of female
friendship; a coming-of-age story with road-movie inflections,
piercingly honest and deeply affecting.

Feature first-timer (and accomplished musician) Sidney Flanigan is
superb as Autumn, a 17-year-old from Pennsylvania who discovers that
she cannot get an abortion in her home town without parental consent.
Quietly desperate, Autumn reluctantly confides in her more outgoing
cousin Skylar (rising star Talia Ryder, soon to be seen in
Spielberg’s _West Side Story_), who agrees to accompany her across
state lines to New York. The pair imagine that the trip will be brief
but find themselves spending days and nights on the streets, waiting
for the procedure that Autumn was denied in Pennsylvania.

Inspired by “these untold journeys that women take” (Ann
Rossiter’s _Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora:__ The __“Abortion
Trail__” and the Making of a London-Irish Underground,
1980-2000_apparently proved an instructive work), Hittman’s drama
may be fictional, but it is firmly rooted in factual research. Like
Kitty Green’s current release _The Assistant
[https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/may/03/the-assistant-review-julia-garner-kitty-green-me-too-office-drama-weinstein], _everything
about _Never Rarely Sometimes Always_ has a matter-of-fact veracity:
from heartbreaking early scenes in which we see Autumn helplessly
punching her own bruised stomach to her very different experiences at
a pregnancy centre in Pennsylvania and a Planned Parenthood clinic in

Brief scenes of anti-abortion activists picketing clinics remind us of
the crisis facing women’s rights in Trump’s increasingly
retrogressive America. Yet, as with her previous features, Hittman’s
primary focus is her characters – their lives, their experiences,
their dreams and disappointments. Early scenes of Autumn and Skylar in
their home town, where both work part-time in the local grocery store,
are an object lesson in how to convey vast amounts of information with
minimal dialogue; snapshots of an environment that has shaped the
lives of these two very different characters.

Significant, too, that the only time Autumn really seems to verbalise
her feelings is when she plays a solo version of He’s Got the Power
at the school talent contest, turning the Exciters’ upbeat 60s hit
into a plaintive ballad (“He makes me do things I don’t wanna
do”), provoking cries of derision from the audience, followed by an
awful moment of emptiness, and then a steely continuation through
barely restrained tears.

Hittman has described _Never Rarely Sometimes Always_ as “a
narrative about a girl carrying around a lot of pain and burden, and
the loneliness of it all”. That loneliness is certainly a key part
of the film’s emotional palette, captured with great insight and
understanding. Yet ultimately it is the growing bond between Autumn
and Skylar that sticks in the mind, beautifully expressed in a strange
moment of silent hand-holding that quite took my breath away.

Plaudits to French cinematographer Hélène Louvart, who did such
sensual work on _Beach Rats_, and who here manages to capture moments
of intense intimacy in unobtrusive fashion. In a film in which so much
is expressed through minute gestures, Louvart keeps a remarkable
balance between the geography of these characters’ faces and that of
the ever-changing landscape through which they pass. Through her
camera, we become both observers and participants – watching these
young women’s lives but also empathetically experiencing their
shared journeys.

The result is a film that combines the melancholy magic of John
Schlesinger’s _Midnight Cowboy
[https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/sep/12/midnight-cowboy-review-john-schlesinger-jon-voight-dustin-hoffman]_ with
the humanist artfulness of the Dardenne brothers’ finest neorealist
works. Perfectly pitched and sensitively played, this is truthful,
powerful and profoundly moving fare from a film-maker at the very top
of her ga


	* [https://portside.org/node/22932/printable/print]







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