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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Sometimes Always Never movie review: only very intermittently

Sometimes Always Never yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

Gentle kook and visual frolicking bury emotion in this tale of a man mired in grief. Little of its head-scratching whimsy makes a melancholy landing; most just floats away on wisps of insignificance.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Bill Nighy
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

The quirk is strong with this one… too strong. And too forced. Piles of gentle but off-kilter kook and visual frolicking bury any authentic emotion, a particular problem in a tale of a man mired in grief and struggling to right himself. Bill Nighy (Emma.) is a tailor by profession and a Scrabble hustler on the side — that’s right, I said “Scrabble hustler” — whose strained relationship with his son (Sam Riley: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) seems headed for a bit of a showdown after a fresh reminder of a family tragedy, one the ongoing and unresolved nature of which makes it difficult to get past.

Jenny Agutter Tim McInnerny Bill Nighy

Beware the Scrabble hustler…

Sometimes Always Never — not to be confused with the wildly different Never Rarely Sometimes Always — throws a lot of head-scratching whimsy at us, hoping some of it will make a melancholy landing, but only a running motif about off-brand toys and cheap knockoff board games manages even a slight sense of pathos. Frank Cottrell Boyce’s (The Railway Man) script packs in eccentric tangents: the elegance of a labelmaker font; a part-time freelance coal miner; the correct way a man should button his suit jackets. The latter is where the film gets its title, and like almost everything else here, it floats away on wisps of insignificance.

First-time feature director Carl Hunter has genuine cinematic charisma, a distinctive style that I’ll be happy to watch out for more of, hopefully next time with a story and script that’s a better match for it.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2019’s other releases.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2020’s other new films.

yellow light 2.5 stars

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Sometimes Always Never (2019) | directed by Carl Hunter
US/Can release: Jun 12 2020 (VOD)
UK/Ire release: Jun 14 2019

MPAA: rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual references
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate sex references, language)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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