In the opening scene of Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, Autumn sings: “He makes me do things I don’t want to do. He makes me say things I don’t want to say,” (Sidney Flanigan). She is performing in a high-school talent show. This part of the song later gets related to questions by Planned Parenthood consultant but even before that it comes to our mind during her journey.
From the beginning, the pro-choice agenda is obvious. We see the unfolding story with curiosity: the pregnancy test kit; learning that she cannot have an abortion without her parents’ permission in Pennsylvania; the unpleasant feeling of that first sonogram. It seems that Autumn’s decision for abortion is the source of Hittman’s respect for her character.
Autumn like any other girl in that situation is alone but eventually, she chooses to share her secret with trusted friends and relatives. Her friend, cousin, and supermarket co-worker Skylar (Talia Ryder) are the only people she can confide.
They gather enough money to buy two bus tickets to New York City where the laws allow her to do abortion. Autumn finds herself with low cash and no place to stay, referred to another clinic to undergo more pre-tests before the abortion.
In the Planned Parenthood center, the counselor asks Autumn a series of questions with multi-choice answers that inspired the name of the movie: Never / Rarely / Sometimes / Always. Questions like: “Your partner makes you have sex when you don’t want to: never, rarely, sometimes, always?” or “Your partner has threatened or frightened you?”
These questions make Autumn think again about her relationship but this time from another view. Questions are arranged in a way that with every answer, Autumn understands her situation better and can think about her choices more wisely.
Autumn’s situation is not the only thing we can see in the movie. Autumn and Skylar in every step of their presence in society get to know their place. Girls’ bodies are like a currency in almost every exchange they have with men. The store manager sloppily kisses their hands; the man on the subway touches himself while looking at them; the student they meet on the bus expects Skylar to pay him back sexually for the help.
Everything and everyone pushes Autumn and Skylar towards the early stages of prostitution but Skylar supports Autumn in a remarkable way all along and their friendship saves them at last.
As many states in the US try to restrict access to abortion during the Coronavirus pandemic, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is a response and reaction to the conspiracy by conservatives who are getting advantage of the shutdown of non-essential businesses to close abortion centers. They may consider hair salons and tattoo bars essential for people in Georgia or another conservative state in the US but abortion is something that people don’t need urgently. They know that based on their new legislations, the law effectively bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
“Never Rarely Sometimes Always” has a naturalistic style that sometimes gets closer to a documentary. Scenes, camera position and dialogues are simple and close to reality. This simplicity and using non-famous actors and ordinary people in the movie creates a distance between viewers and characters and let them think about the real situation in the society.