Never Rarely Sometimes Always Parent Guide
It's disappointing that a film with such a controversial subject and engaging actors manages to be so painfully dull.
Parent Movie Review
We understand that abortion is a complex moral issue and that our readers on both sides of the debate have passionately held beliefs. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” has a pro-choice perspective and is being evaluated on its merits as a movie. Our review is not an endorsement or criticism of anyone’s perspective on the issue of abortion.
The ultrasound technician passes her wand over a pregnant woman’s abdomen. “This is the most magical sound you’ll ever hear,” she says, “your baby’s heartbeat.” I remember the elation I felt when I heard my babies’ heartbeats for the first time and it saddens me as the young woman on screen closes her eyes in misery. She’s 17 years old and does not want this baby.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always is the story of Autumn Callahan (played with awe-inspiring vulnerability by novice actor Sidney Flanigan) and her quest to abort her pregnancy. Since her home state of Pennsylvania requires parental notification for minors having an abortion, Autumn and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) take the bus to New York City where she can have the procedure anonymously.
This is a difficult movie to watch, for several reasons. It’s painful to see a teenager so adrift, so unable to seek support or assistance from her exhausted mother and surly father. It’s hard to watch as Autumn tries to induce a miscarriage by chugging cough syrup, taking vast amounts of vitamin C, or punching herself in the stomach. Listening to Amber gradually disclose her sexual history to the clinic social worker is also wrenching as the issue of consent in her past sexual relationships becomes increasingly murky. I’m sure I won’t be the only viewer to wonder if Autumn’s choices would be different had her life circumstances provided better support.
Beyond the subject matter, this movie is hard to watch because it suffers from terrible pacing. I wonder how a film about a controversial subject can be so dull, so agonizingly boring. The film crawls along like a sedated snail, dragging through the girls’ trip to NYC and their stay there. I understand that Autumn feels vulnerable, lost, and adrift, but prolonged shots on the bus and in subway stations don’t underscore that message – they just put the audience to sleep.
To the director’s credit, this movie avoids the easy trap of demonizing people who hold different beliefs. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is clearly a pro-choice film, but the pro-life women at the pregnancy support center Autumn visits are portrayed as kind and sincere and genuinely interested in helping pregnant women find alternatives to abortion. The women at the abortion clinic are also depicted as helpful, gentle, and respectful. Where this film falls down is in its treatment of men who are depicted, without nuance or exception, as the villains of the piece. There’s Autumn’s simmeringly angry father, the conspicuously absent baby daddy, the predatory boss who kisses the girls’ hands as they pass over the cash from their tills, the customer who hits on Skylar, the persistent guy on the bus who badgers Skylar into sharing her phone number, and the man who leers at the girls on the subway. There is a skin-crawling scene where Skylar lets a guy kiss her so she can borrow money to get back home. The only strings-free support the girls have comes from each other; their nearly wordless, non-judgmental bond anchoring the film.
Parents may wonder if this is the kind of movie their teens should watch and from a content perspective there isn’t much to worry about. There is no explicit sexual content, comparatively little profanity and no violence. There are medical scenes where Autumn’s feet are in stirrups and one where she finds blood on her maxi pad. As a general rule, I believe that teens and adults benefit from watching movies that come from different perspectives, i.e. people who are pro-life should watch something with a pro-choice sensibility and vice versa. After all, if we don’t understand one another, how can we have any kind of civil conversation? Sadly, this movie is so interminably dull that I would only recommend it sometimes or rarely, and only to those with a strong interest in the topic.Directed by Eliza Hittman. Starring Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, and Theodore Pellerin. Running time: 101 minutes. Theatrical release May 7, 2020. Updated August 31, 2020
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Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Rating & Content Info
Why is Never Rarely Sometimes Always rated PG-13? Never Rarely Sometimes Always is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for disturbing/mature thematic content, language, some sexual references and teen drinking.
Violence: A girl pierces her own nose: some blood is visible. A pregnant teen tries to induce a miscarriage by taking cough syrup and vitamin C and by punching herself in the abdomen: bruises are later visible. A girl steals money from her employer. A girl discloses a violent relationship; there is no detail.
Sexual Content: An employer kisses the hands of his unwilling employees as they pass over the cash from their tills. A middle aged man makes a pass at a teenage girl. A couple are seen kissing on the subway. A man leers at teenage girls. A man unzips his pants in public: masturbation is implied. A girl lets a young man kiss her so she can borrow money. He also gropes her thigh. A girl is seen washing pushing a damp cloth down her jeans to clean herself. She uses the phrase “French whore bath”. Girls change their clothes on a few occasions; their bra straps are visible. A girl confirms that she has been pressured to have sex against her will.
Profanity: There are a handful of profanities in this movie, including one sexual expletive, one sexual hand gesture, two scatological curses, and a couple of anatomical words and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A man smokes. Parents drink beer and share with their teenage daughter. A young man shares beer with an underage girl. A girl chugs cough syrup. A girl takes a large handful of vitamin C tablets.
Page last updated August 31, 2020
Never Rarely Sometimes Always Parents' Guide
What do you think about abortion? Do you consider yourself pro-life or pro-choice? Why? Do you see abortion as a moral, medical, legal, or personal issue?
Do you think the rights of the mother are more important than the rights of the fetus? Or do you believe that the rights of the unborn child are more important than the rights of the mother? Do you think it’s possible to balance the rights of both mother and baby?
Do you believe abortion should be banned in all circumstances or do you believe it should always be legal? Do you believe in restricting abortions, subject to some exceptions? If so, which exceptions would you make? How would they be enforced? Do you believe that the issue of abortion is best solved through the courts or do you think the demand for abortion can be reduced through social, cultural and economic policies?
Have you ever had a discussion with someone who has a different opinion on abortion than you do? Did you learn anything from them? Were you able to find any areas of common ground?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
There’s a lot to read in the abortion debate.
Amelia Bonow and Emily Nokes have written Shout Your Abortion, which includes over 250 stories from women who have undergone abortions and the medical professionals who provided them.
The Choices We Made by Angela Bonavoglia recounts the experiences of restricted choice for abortion.
Christian doctor Dr. Willie Parker lays out a pro-choice perspective in Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.
Anyone interested in pro-life perspectives can read Randy Alcorn’s Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments.
Abortion clinic workers who have had a change of heart share their experiences in The Walls are Talking by Abby Johnson and Kristin Detrow.
The most recent home video release of Never Rarely Sometimes Always movie is March 13, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
There are plenty of movies to choose from on the topic of teen pregnancy and abortion.
Riding in Cars with Boys is based on a true story and stars Drew Barrymore as a pregnant fifteen year old who chooses to keep the baby and marry the father. The marriage is a disaster, but motherhood changes her life.
In Juno, a sixteen year old discovers she’s pregnant. After considering an abortion, she decides to give the baby up for adoption.
October Baby is the story of Hannah, a young woman who has struggled with health problems throughout her life. When she learns that she was the survivor of a botched abortion, she sets off to find her biological mother.
Based on a true story, Unplanned follows Abby Johnson, who has worked for Planned Parenthood, moving from volunteer to clinic director. When she has an epiphany that leads her to see abortion as the murder of an unborn baby, she switches sides and begins to campaign for pro-life groups.