Saturday, February 1, 2020

Sundance with Abe: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Directed by Eliza Hittman
U.S. Dramatic Competition

Abortion is a hot-button issue in the United States, and there are many opinions on it. Even in places where it is legal to have an abortion, there is often a strong presence of those who oppose it and seek to convince anyone who might try to get one that it is the wrong choice. Resources exist that help those who live in areas where access is not possible locate the closest options, which can be helpful but also lead to treacherous journeys that those who embark upon them are unprepared to face.

Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) is a high schooler who works as a cashier at a supermarket in rural Pennsylvania with her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) and endures regular sexual harassment from her boss. When she discovers that she is pregnant, Autumn tries different ways to cause a miscarriage before deciding that traveling to New York City to obtain an abortion is her last resort. Accompanied by Skylar and armed with a bit of cash and some information, Autumn boards a bus to prepare for what she hopes will be a simple journey.

This film’s premise is reminiscent of the brutal 2007 Romanian film “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days,” though this one is only minimally less bleak since abortion is indeed legal in New York, which is a far cry from 1980s communist Romania. But the general idea is the same: Autumn believes this is what she has to do, and after being shown a pro-life propaganda video after her clinic doctor asks whether she is “abortion-minded,” that she has to go far to find somewhere that will allow her to go through with it.

Seeing her travel hundreds of miles and silently wander the streets and train stations of New York City should be compelling, but the dialogue is so sparse that little character development actually occurs throughout the entirety of this miserable film. As a representation of the lengths many anonymous people must go to in order to secure basic healthcare rights, this film serves a purpose. But as a cinematic exploration of that concept, it doesn’t actually achieve much. It’s a harsh and brutal reality check, one that doesn’t seem to want to get to know its characters beyond what they choose to offer and say to each other, which is very little, leading to an ultimately unfulfilling viewing experience.


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