Dark but powerful “never rarely sometimes always” advocates female sex agency
Adult stories, especially on television, have become more cavalier – or perhaps more comfortable – in describing the range of storylines that lead to and follow an abortion. It turns out that, just like in real life, the characters can abort without having serious emotional or physical repercussions. Hulu’s acerbic satire ‘Veep’ and ‘Shrill’ stealthily funny from Hulu for example, show that abortion can help clarify career goals or turn a mouse into a feminist powerhouse.
But overall, these stories tend to feature adult white women with enough resources to figure out their lives and move on, often for the better. These representations do not proportionally reflect who actually asks for an abortion in the United States and the resources of these characters are not just about money. The “cozy” television reporting on abortion takes place in cities like New York, Washington, DC or Portland, where the political climate favors reproductive rights and defines these rights as essential, even in times of crisis.
The grim but important teenage drama, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” takes place in rural Pennsylvania, where abortion currently requires parental consent. It joins a limited but growing number of films that disclose or include abortion, which lags behind American television, as ongoing research shows at University of California San Francisco.
Yet a few films with abortion plots have appeared very recently, including the frightening, fire-lit scene in “Portrait of a Lady On Fire,” praised for its radical nature. inclusion of smiling babies. Two more from 2019, “Waves” and “Premature,” relate to unplanned teenage pregnancies, the latter making the most worthy and fitting companion of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”.
In short, as always with films, it’s powerful to see lives lived on screen, even imagined. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” exaggerates its fictitious devices against a background of tattered realism. This contrast begins as the film opens with a colorful and styled high school talent show that follows one another, until singer-songwriter Autumn takes the stage, two decades too late for Lilith Fair and several. weeks late for her period.
Autumn sings a dismal and accusatory ballad with the recurring line, “He makes me… do things I don’t want to do…” The crowded auditorium gazes uncertainly, empty and contemptuous. When a boy his age yells “Slut!” Autumn drops his guitar beside him. She takes an extended break, then, in one of the film’s first resistance rallies, she picks it up again.
LISTEN: Here NowTonya Mosley chats with “Never Rarely, Sometimes Always” writer-director Eliza Hittman and stars Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder about the film.
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” does not hesitate to establish itself firmly among the defenders of the action of women and girls, in particular the sexual action. Autumn later reveals that she has had multiple sexual partners, maintaining a quaint side to teen movies, and not which makes the film a risky follow-up to director Eliza Hittman’s latest effort, “Beach Rats” (2017) , also praised for his carnal sense that pushes the limits.
Instead, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” risks being completely immersed in a 17-year-old female body that is pregnant, edgy, and trapped in patriarchy, even though she wouldn’t call it that. The result is a boyfriend survival movie in which two teenage girls gloomily, almost silently, embark on a multi-state journey to abort Autumn. The expiration of this story is that Autumn and her best friend Skylar have each other (and actors Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder do more than sever their unspoken bond).
The fact that the couple find condescending naysayers and predators around every corner may tire some audiences, who might be like, “Oh, sure, she’s having trouble with her dad.” (Autumn’s disgruntled dad thinks she feels bad is “all in her head” and berates her with phrases like, “Your mom wants me to tell you how awesome you are.”) But others recognize how suffocating the world can be in a one-dimensional way. at 17 years old. Seeing a Trump bobblehead for sale next to Peppa Pig might seem “symbolic,” like a talisman for everything. This point of view plays into Hittman’s washed-out palette, overly pretty girls’ faces, and sometimes uncovered symbolism (like the bobblehead). Autumn and Skylar go on like rote, packing and dragging a huge old suitcase on a bus, then down the subways and streets of New York.
On the one hand, the girls are good beyond their years (Skylar withdraws money from the grocery store until they finance their trip) and on the other, they are categorically teenagers (when the clinic counselor offers Autumn a place to spend the night – her procedure will take two days – she refuses, knowing they will be on the street). In many ways, not much happens until the pivotal scene in which the advisor interviews Autumn, asking a battery of questions that she should answer, “never, rarely, sometimes, always.” The counselor waits in silence, thoughtful and empathetic. What Autumn says and doesn’t say fills the room. And broke my heart.
Watching this movie can be in great demand for audiences right now. I will admit that my own viewing appetite has been distorted by pandemic anxiety. Yet the world is spinning. Those on both sides of the abortion debate have continued to come and go, trying to push the line of what women and girls can and cannot access, especially in Ohio and Texas. If “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” had the last word, it would be: “It shouldn’t be that difficult.
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” will be available on some video on demand services from Friday April 3.