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Never Rarely Sometimes Always

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As we delve into the movie “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” and explore its profound narrative, impactful themes, and emotional journey. This cinematic gem is directed by Eliza Hittman. It not only captivates the audience with its compelling story but also addresses significant social issues, empowering viewers to rethink their perspectives on crucial matters.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” writer and director Eliza Hittman accomplishes something extraordinary. She expands her method and style, transforming it into a visionary depiction of the world. Hittman’s first feature, “It Felt Like Love,” released in 2013, centered on a teenage girl in a familiar Brooklyn community. There, she skillfully extended the tendrils of the protagonist’s dramatic experience, weaving it into the broader life of the neighborhood.

With her second feature, “Beach Rats” (2017), Hittman continued this approach and pushed it even further. She artfully scratched and scraped the surface of social connections, revealing the underlying passions and prejudices within.

Now, in her new feature, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” she takes on a stark and harrowing story of a teenager’s quest to get an abortion. In doing so, Hittman creates an intimate drama that not only resonates with personal struggles but also delves into the intricacies of the social fabric. It particularly highlights the bureaucratic abstractions and administrative minefields that exist within society.

Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanigan) embodies a tough-minded, free-spirited, and creatively independent seventeen-year-old high-school student living in a struggling family within a small rural town in Pennsylvania. Despite her talent as a singer, she carries a closed-in demeanor and a tersely melancholy vulnerability. Her awe-inspiring nature attracts both admiration and persecution, particularly from boys who misunderstand her uniqueness as sexual defiance. Nevertheless, she responds to their crude insults with the contempt they rightfully deserve.

As Autumn suspects that she might be pregnant, the film, with sharp dramatic insight, abstains from depicting any sexual act or introducing the father on-screen even for a moment. To address her situation, Autumn seeks help at a local women’s clinic, only to discover that it is part of the anti-abortion machinery.

Unwavering in her decision to terminate the pregnancy, she learns that Pennsylvania’s laws require parental consent for her age to undergo an abortion. Undeterred, Autumn decides to travel to New York for the procedure, accompanied by her cousin, Skylar (Talia Ryder), who happens to be around the same age as her.

Autumn’s world is turned upside down when she finds out about her pregnancy. In a sudden and jarring realization, she comes to understand that her body is no longer under her own control. As the story unfolds, she comes to the stark realization that her body never truly belonged to her, at least not according to the norms and expectations of society.

With each challenging and perilous step she takes to carry out her plan, Autumn sheds another layer of illusion and deceit that had unconsciously shaped her life and identity. The movie focuses on Autumn’s profound transformation as the very foundations of her existence are forcefully taken away. In response, she desperately endeavors to construct a new life for herself, one that is entirely her own.

The opening sequence sets the tone by presenting a high-school talent show with a retro musical number, highlighting the outmoded views surrounding abortion and gender politics prevalent today. The subsequent scene in the diner, where Autumn faces a sexual insult from a male classmate, proves to be more than a passing incident.

Instead, it represents the underlying mindset that underpins the entire patriarchal system she must navigate during her pregnancy. Through keen observations, both by Hittman and Autumn, the film exposes the tight grip of power, be it political or cultural, on a young woman’s mind and body.

When Autumn visits her local clinic, she undergoes a “self-administered” pregnancy test, which dawns upon her as nothing more than the same test stick available at a pharmacy. This revelation instantly transforms something inherently private into an official and authorized matter, no longer belonging solely to her personal life. As she attempts a self-administered abortion, the concept of a strictly private realm becomes futile, painfully illustrating the control society imposes on her choices and experiences.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” goes beyond mere observation; it delves into a drama of extreme subjectivity, where the protagonist’s inner life intertwines intensely with the complexities of the world around her. Eliza Hittman skillfully portrays this psychological transformation through a collection of images that seamlessly merge with the external details, capturing Autumn’s heightened vulnerability as it aligns with the raw essence of her environment.

The cinematography, artfully done by Hélène Louvart, complements the exceptional performance of Sidney Flanigan, who embodies Autumn with a compelling combination of fervent awareness and guarded restraint. Flanigan adeptly conveys the continuous flow of thoughts and the embodiment of consciousness in her physical presence, making Autumn’s journey a captivating exploration of personal growth and societal challenges.

Autumn’s journey to New York for an abortion becomes a pressing economic challenge since she lacks the necessary funds. The movie follows her practical efforts to address this urgent need, and without giving away too much, it involves risky actions that could lead to serious consequences. Throughout the film, the focus is on the various aspects of the abortion process: the logistical, economic, political, medical, and emotional dimensions.

Two New York City facilities serve as the centers of the story, and immediately, the extra-medical aspects of the procedure become apparent through stringent security measures at the clinic doors. The depiction of a Planned Parenthood office reveals the constant harassment faced by women entering the building due to anti-abortion protesters. Even in the most sympathetic of circumstances, the clinics’ rules, appointments, and limited hours create ordinary obstacles that are amplified in a city where Autumn and Skylar are strangers without any acquaintances and lack the means to afford hotels or accommodations.

Summary

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is a cinematic triumph that tugs at the heartstrings and compels viewers to question societal norms. It showcases the strength of young women, the power of friendship, and the impact of choices. This masterpiece not only entertains but also educates, leaving a lasting impression on its audience. If you haven’t watched this gem yet, it’s time to grab some popcorn and experience this emotional rollercoaster that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.

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