Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Never Rarely Sometimes Always Movie Poster Image
Nonjudgmental teen abortion drama offers insight, info.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Without judgment either way, film shows a 17-year-old's experience with abortion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Autumn's cousin Skylar is supportive, accompanying her to New York and staying with her through her experience, even though that means participating in illegal/unethical behavior.

Violence

A teen girl self-harms in hopes of causing a miscarriage; ultimately, she seeks medical assistance to terminate a pregnancy (not shown). Implication of rape and abuse.

Sex

In a clinical setting, mentions of sexual acts. Plot follows a teen pregnancy. A man reaches into his pants; it's implied that he's masturbating.

Language

One use of "f--k off." Also "slut" and "whore." A teen girl flips the middle finger at a man who's acting inappropriately. "Jesus Christ!" used as an exclamation.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A minor drinks beer. An unlikeable adult smokes and drinks beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a teen abortion drama. An award winner at the Sundance and Berlin International film festivals, it walks viewers through the entire process of what it's like to terminate a pregnancy, following the journey of 17-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan). She learns she's pregnant at a doctor's office, becomes aware that parental consent for abortion is required in her state, tries to induce a miscarriage (which involves punching herself), has sonograms and encounters questions at clinics, and ultimately is put under with anesthesia (the procedure itself isn't shown). Protestors/people trying to dissuade her from ending the pregnancy are shown, too; they're not vilified, and neither is Autumn. The film doesn't offer information about who the father is or exactly why Autumn is adamant about ending the pregnancy without telling her parents, but her situation shines a light on why a young woman's right to choose without parental consent can be crucial in some cases. Throughout her experience, Autumn and her cousin lie to their moms, steal money, and drink beer to appear older. On the other hand, in their 17-year-old way, they try hard to stay safe despite the fact that they're so vulnerable on the streets of New York with nowhere to stay. Language is infrequent but includes a use of "f--k off."

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What's the story?

In NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS, when 17-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) learns that she's pregnant, she sets out to get an abortion. Her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) accompanies Autumn as she travels from rural Pennsylvania to New York City, where she can terminate her pregnancy without a parent's consent.

Is it any good?

This isn't a Hollywood movie: It's the solemn, bare-bones, authentic story of a lower-middle-class teen facing an unexpected pregnancy and doing her best to deal with it. Autumn isn't a talker and most of the time expresses little emotion. But that blank face is a springboard for the mystery viewers try to solve during the film: Who is the father, and what's going on in Autumn's family? (The mother seems like a good egg, while the father is clearly a jerk.) Her default lack of expression also strengthens the moments in which she does get worried or emotional -- we may not know exactly what's going on, but it's enough to know that her desire to get an abortion is well-founded. 

That said, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is remarkably nonjudgmental. Writer-director Eliza Hittman authentically portrays one girl's experience, and, in doing so, creates almost an instructional guide. This film's intention isn't to be a big-screen hit, but rather to be more of a resource young women can seek out to help explain and demystify the process of terminating a pregnancy. It also displays the discomfort young women feel with the come-ons, harassment, and inappropriate behavior they encounter regularly. Men don't come off well in the film; there's not one who's not a creep -- even the one "nice" guy is nice because he wants something. And that too can be part of the young female experience. Hittman boldly plays out Autumn's story with no score: The silence can make the time pass slowly, but, just like real life, the deafening silence makes our choices louder.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their beliefs surrounding unplanned pregnancy and abortion. How were these topics depicted in the film? Do you agree with the way they were handled?

  • What do you think the purpose of Never Rarely Sometimes Always is? Did your opinion change on anything? Did it make you feel compassion for a pregnant teen -- or for Autumn specifically?

  • How are men portrayed in the film? Do you think the daily harassment that Autumn and her cousin experience is true to real life?

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