A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sometimes Always Never is a quirky British "prodigal son" comedy from the point of view of the son who stayed. Some of the subject matter is mature: Decades earlier, a 19-year-old left home in a huff and disappeared, his family not knowing whether he's alive or dead. In the present, characters are asked to identify a body that may be his. But it's all played with a dry, light tone that doesn't feel too inappropriate. There's not too much iffy content, other than a bit of language (including "damn" and "bloody"), brief smoking, references to a video game character's breasts, and a funny scene in which an adult son finds his father with a woman and realizes they've just had sex (nothing graphic). The movie is based around the word game Scrabble, with the irony being that the father in the movie (Bill Nighy) raised his sons with a competitive love of words but lacks communication skills. Ultimately, the message is to appreciate those who stand by you and be grateful for what -- and who -- you have, rather than longing for what you don't.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER, a tailor named Alan (Bill Nighy) has searched tirelessly for decades for his missing son, Michael, who stormed out and left home at age 19 after a game of Scrabble. When Alan and his younger son, Peter (Sam Riley), now an adult, travel to identify a body that they fear may be Michael's, the two use their love of words to try to reconnect.
Is it any good?
A feisty Scrabble player may be at the heart of this British dramedy's plot, but it's a tile short of creating something noteworthy. It's just missing something -- it's simply not quite funny, compelling, or catchy enough. The issue may just be how very British it is: arid humor, stiff-upper-lip relations, and comedy beats about Pickwick's Top of the Pops albums and Marmite. While Sometimes Always Never is mostly appropriate for family viewing, teens and tweens are likely to turn to their phones in disinterest unless they're true Anglophiles.
And that's too bad, given that the movie is about a family that's bonded, for better or worse, over a board game that encourages brain sharpening. The family, including the missing Michael, shares a love of the lexicon, and the film introduces new words as well as using words in surprising ways (please, let's pick up the word "spruce" to mean looking sharp). It also encourages style: Alan is a sharp dresser who drives a stylish car, and the color schemes involve brightly colored contrasting tones. Sometimes Always Never doesn't quite come together (even the clever title doesn't totally work in relation to the story), but it holds promise. The offbeat script, finding the quiet quirkiness in mundane characters, and the strong contrasting color palette show that director Carl Hunter could be England's answer to Wes Anderson.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the story of the prodigal son. Are you familiar with that tale/parable? What is its message? Is it as relevant in a nonreligious context?
What's the takeaway message of Sometimes Always Never? Why is communication an important life skill?
What genre is this film? Does it fit into the category of "mystery"?
- On DVD or streaming: August 18, 2020
- Cast: Bill Nighy, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe
- Director: Carl Hunter
- Studio: Blue Fox Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and some sexual references
- Last updated: August 17, 2020
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