‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’: A searing but flawed film about abortion

I suppose America asked me to review “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” because I am pro-life but critical of the mainstream pro-life movement. I especially reject pro-lifers who demonize women and make excuses for men, and who refuse to understand why abortion feels like the only choice for some women. Things are slowly changing, but much of pro-life culture is still propaganda. I abhor propaganda, even when I agree with the message it delivers. If I’m watching a movie, I want a work of art, not a wheelbarrow for dumping a message at my feet.

“Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” written and directed by Eliza Hittman, is no wheelbarrow. It is a deft, delicate and sometimes searingly painful and realistic portrayal of two teenage cousins, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and Skylar (Talia Ryder), who travel from their rural Pennsylvania town to New York City, where Autumn can get an abortion without parental consent. For a longish film, it is short on plot and dialogue, relying heavily and successfully on glances, murmurs and laconic comments. The script and acting are superb, flawless. This film never tells, only shows, and it does it so well.

Maybe too well. Read the rest of my review for America Magazine.

Liked it? Take a second to support simchajfisher on Patreon!

14 thoughts on “‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’: A searing but flawed film about abortion”

  1. I thought this was a brilliant review. So much to think about and mull over.
    I want my teenage daughter to watch this with me and read your thoughts here on propaganda. Do you think the film is appropriate for a 15 yr old?

    1. Sure, for the content, it could be. It’s really very subtly done, and a susceptible kid could easily come away with the idea that abortion really is the only answer, so I would be cautious, depending on the kid.

  2. “What will she do? Just keep going to New York for abortions until she is old enough to sign the forms herself?” Yeah the sad truth for a whole generation of girls is that the “easy, accessible and safe“ mantra is the frightening part. She doesn’t realise what multiple procedure over time will do to her reproductive system and associated organs…yeah let’s damage the bodies of these girls just make sure they aren’t stuck with an annoying baby so they can live business as usual, reckless sex and all…such an insightful flick. Propaganda indeed.

  3. I suspect my daughter had an abortion while in a 2 year relationship with an abuser. My beautiful daughter who was pro-life and raised with a loving father still to my horror ended up dating a horrible manipulative abusive man who step my incremental step pulled her away from her faith and her family. She finally left him, is healing with a really good therapist and we are in the process of rebuilding our relationship but she is now stauchly pro choice and is full of so much anger whenever the subject is brought up. There have been a few moments when I’ve thought she was going to tell me she’s had an abortion and as much as it breaks my heart I can understand why she would make that choice. And if I’m being brutally honest, there is a part of me relieved that there isn’t a child tieing her to her abuser.

    This experience has taught me that abortion as much as I thought it was black and white, isn’t always is. Yes, it is the killing of a baby but I also see the other side of the coin too. A young woman who feels like she has no other option. Like she is not only saving herself but her baby from something worse. I’m pro life and I show that by continuing to fight for measures that provide pro family safety nets that are desperately needed as a matter of policy in this country. I will not demonize women who decide to get abortions for a whole host of reasons.

    1. My heart goes out to you and your daughter. I stopped going to group at our local women’s shelter because having left my ex, other moms would ask me how family court went for me. Some were pregnant and weighing the choice to abort to get free of their abuser. I didn’t have the heart to tell them how little protection there is for women and children in family court. I understand your daughters’ anger. How dare people talk about abortion without understanding and alleviating the consequences of pregnancy for women? I think of animals that will gnaw off a leg to free themselves from a trap when I think of those sisters. No one should be put in that situation.

      1. This. I have a good friend who had seven children with the man who beat her routinely, finally leaving when he started trying to molest their 13 year old daughter. It took six years and thousands of dollars to get him out of her life, and he still managed to turn the oldest three kids —all boys — against her. Tell me again why birth control and abortion are not absolutely essential to women’s equality?

        1. @Karen, because we shouldn’t be put in the position of choosing between our freedom and the life of our child– that’s not liberation, that’s a hostage situation.

          That’s really the long and the short of it.

          As for equality…I think the admittedly longer, harder battle of making it safer and easier for women to leave abusive men AND support and keep any children they may have had with him is the one we’ve got to fight. It’s the battle the original feminist movement was founded on, and it’s time we got back to it.

          And it’s worth pointing out that abortion is sometimes used to cover up, enable, and perpetuate abuse too. It’s not like it’s a pancea.

          As for birth control…whooo boy. That’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

          1. I will listen to arguments about abortion. As others have said, women don’t want abortions like we want a new handbag; we want one like an animal caught in a trap ‘wants’ to gnaw off its own leg. It IS a hostage situation. (One exacerbated by laws against abortion, I think, but still.)

            Birth control is a whole ‘nother story. Men will force women to have sex. All men. Every man would do this if he could get away with it. This is as fundamental to male biology as breathing and the sooner women accept that fact the happier and safer we’ll be.

            1. At the risk of sounding both racist and naive (or perhaps not so much the latter?), I am going to say that I don’t think this is necessarily true of Western men any more. At least, to quote the inimitable Bill Clinton, it depends what you mean by ‘is’. Heterosexual men have been so corrupted by pornography and become so lazy that they are more interested in the kind of sexual encounters for which contraceptives are quite unnecessary. Condoms, perhaps, to prevent disease, but birth control, no. You may consider this a desirable development. I’ not sure that I do, but it does involve different problems.

        2. Because abortion doesn’t leave you in a better situation than you were before. I could get rid of this baby and the memory of the monster who is the other genetic makeup of this child….easy…..but how will it stop his abuse, make me safer or make me happier? It’s putting one bad thing on top of another bad thing, and SHE is left to bear the suffering, not him. If she is lucky enough to escape him, then it is she who is left with the scars of the abuse AND the scars of the abortion. And he gets away with the abuse and with the unborn child’s blood on his hands….that’s not justice for the woman.
          And as per your comment below on forced sex from a male husband or partner- that’s rape. It’s a criminal offence within a marriage and outside of a marriage. Period.

          1. Abortion means she’s not required to raise a kid with the monster who beat her and who reminds her of him every time she looks at the kid. She doesn’t have to share custody, or try to explain to a child, especially a boy, that his father tortured his mother and oh, by the way, you, boy share all Dad’s genetic traits including the propensity to beat women.

  4. Woof. I love how you ended this, good gut wrench there.

    You touched on pregnancy centers.. My mom, as a married woman, went to one of those crises pregnancy centers once for a pregnancy test and hated the whole experience. She said the lady behind the desk was extremely judgemental and condescending…and again, my mom was married! I think there’s finally some attention being paid to all that by pro-life leadership, but there’s a lot of work to be done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *