Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is one of the most beautiful, real, and heartbreaking coming-of-age stories I’ve ever seen. A story that shows how ugly life can be, especially for women — and also illustrates how the love and support of a friend can guide you through the worst times.

Seventeen-year-old Autumn stands on a talent show stage, singing a tune markedly different from the ones her peers have picked: a song full of raw emotion delivered with such talent that it leaves the audience stunned. At dinner with her family afterwards, we get a glimpse of how cruel her father can be and we start to see the weight of what Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) has to navigate on a daily basis.

Suspecting she’s pregnant, Autumn visits a clinic in her small PA town where a test confirms she is. When she inquires about an abortion, the woman there immediately starts to pressure to her to either keep the baby, or put it up for adoption — followed by a screening of a pro-life film that tries to convince her she’s a murderer if she doesn’t choose to carry her fetus to term.

Stuck in a state where you need to be 18, or get your parent’s consent, Autumn eventually reveals her pregnancy to her cousin and best friend, Skylar (Talia Ryder), who suggests they travel to New York to get the procedure done. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. The girls have to navigate their ways around the city alone with little money and no place to stay.

They eventually come across two people willing to help; a woman at the NY clinic who shows Autumn compassion and empathy, and who doesn’t judge her for her choice — and a young man whose motives are a bit sketchier.

Every moment of Never is an exercise in gorgeous restraint. There’s no in your face reveal or huge, unrecoverable tragedy that happens. It’s just two girls, on the verge of being women, trying to get through some shit and continue on with their lives.

Writer and Director Eliza Hittman has created the perfect snapshot of how hard it can be when you’re a teenage girl, and both Flanigan and Ryder give exquisite performances. To their credit, I didn’t break down during the scenes in the clinics – even when I recognized the questions being asked, because I’ve answered them before. My moment of full-on emotion came in the subway, when the two girls secretly held hands while one of them was making a sacrifice in order to get what they needed in order to go home.

This movie will sit with me for a long time.

{Never Rarely Sometimes Always is available to watch on demand now}