I want to make sure that you're okay.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always ( 2020 )

  |   April 26, 2020

As she sits in a care room in a clinic far from home, Autumn is told "All you have to do is answer either 'Never, Rarely, Sometimes or Always', kinda like multiple choice". The simplicity of the questions, and the availability of prescribed answers, is designed to elicit responses to questions that might otherwise be shirked. Difficult questions that delve into her personal life, to try and make sure that the decision she's taking is right for her, and if she's safe.

Autumn lives in a small town in rural Pennsylvania with her family, living a relatively normal teenage life, until she realises that she's become pregnant. She visits local clinics where the carers are compassionate and sympathetic, but won't condone the possibility of an abortion, which seems to her to be the only option. She does it all alone, hiding it even from the father of her child. Her cousin Skylar, who she works with at a supermarket, notices the discomfort and the morning sickness, and quickly becomes her accomplice. Unable to get an abortion in her home state without the permission of her parents, the girls take a long bus to New York, where they can find the treatment they need. As Autumn visits the clinics there, and discovers she is further along than expected, they are forced to stay first for one night and then two. Their money runs out, and, without anywhere to stay, they whittle the nights away at bus stations, in games salons, and anywhere that won't throw them out.

On the face of it, Autumn is a typical teenager. She is quiet and moody, and tries to avoid awkward confrontations with monosyllabic responses. But she has a stoicism and a quiet courage that sets her apart. In the face of a monumental life challenge, she has an unwavering spirit and her actions quietly and stubbornly run counter to what is expected to her. She turns down the help offered to her, determined to make it on her own. Skylar also goes above and beyond what may be expected of family or friend, without ever once hesitating. "You can go home if you want" Autumn tells her on the second night as they briefly fall out, but there is no question of her abandoning her.

Eliza Hittman's third feature film tells Autumn's story without ever getting bogged down in detail. Life is what happens in between, and we don't see or hear the conversations that lead to Autumn's pregnancy, to her decision to get an abortion, to the girl's decision to go to New York. But we do see how they react to those situations, how they cope with them, and how they navigate their way through them. Sometime it's the most understated movies that have the biggest emotional impact, and Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always is a subtly powerful and moving film.