Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 13, 2020

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Filed under: feminism,Film — louisproyect @ 7:41 pm

Opening today at the Angelica and the Landmark on 57th street, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” gets its title from a multiple choice series of questions that a social worker at an abortion clinic in NY poses to the 17-year-old protagonist of this powerful neo-realist film who has come to New York. One of the questions that she answers without hesitation is “Have you had anal sex?” The answer is sometimes. However, when she is asked if her boyfriend has beaten her, she pauses for a moment and then begins crying softly.

Directed by Eliza Hittman, it has a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and deservedly so. Its two main characters speak for a generation of young women who have seen abortion rights erode under a relentless attack from the Republican Party. Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), the pregnant girl, works as a cashier in a Western Pennsylvania town that, following the state law, will not permit an abortion unless she has a parent’s signature. This is something she cannot agree to. When she rushes to the bathroom at work due to morning sickness, her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder), who works alongside her, trails behind to see what’s wrong. Autumn is evasive, only saying that is woman’s stuff. She eventually learns that Autumn is two months pregnant.

Like many young women dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, she goes to a center promising help with a pregnancy listed in the Yellow Pages. A staff member gives her a pregnancy detection kit that turns out positive. Autumn asks her if she could have bought such a kit at pharmacy and done the test herself. The staff members agrees that she could have but then directs the conversation toward possible solutions to her problem, which involve giving up the baby to adoption and just about everything else except terminating the pregnancy. To help persuade Autumn, she begins playing a video about the rights of the fetus made by some Evangelical sect. That’s enough for Autumn to figure out that she’s been the victim of a bait and switch operation.

Autumn and Skylar pool their meager savings from their minimum wage jobs and get on a bus headed to New York. As it leaves town, you see abandoned coal mines and factories on the way. This is a film that places its main characters into a social and economic context that is sadly lacking in most Hollywood films about unplanned pregnancies. In fact, to my knowledge there has never been one made that makes you feel like a happy ending will be the termination of “life”. The director’s ethos is that of the abortion rights movement of the 1970. When it is coupled to a style of an American Ken Loach, this is a film you must see. Hopefully, the theaters will still be open for business. My recommendation is to go see it and sit somewhere a few seats away from everybody else. A work like this deserves strong word-of-mouth.

Despite Hollywood’s liberal veneer, whenever the topic of unplanned pregnancies is tackled, the outcome is a film that would be embraced by the Christian right. In my 2007 review of “Knocked Up”, I commented:

 Despite its MTV ‘tude, “Knocked Up” boils down to a defense of “family values.” In 2005, “Just Like Heaven,” another romantic comedy, was a veiled defense of keeping Terri Schiavo on the feeding tube with its attractive female lead in a coma. Now we have “right to life” at the opposite end of the life-cycle. As difficult as it is to imagine an ambitious and reasonably intelligent woman like Allison Scott going to bed with a slob like Ben Stone, it is even far more difficult to imagine her having his baby.

The film notes give you an idea of how important this film was to its director/screenwriter:

Hittman did field research in Pennsylvania, where abortion restrictions have resulted in women crossing state lines to get the procedure in neighboring New York and New Jersey. She traveled to some of the state’s small towns to see what reproductive healthcare services were available to women living there. She came across pregnancy centers, which are affiliated with the pro-life movement and steer pregnant women towards either parenthood or adoption. In visiting these centers, Hittman went through the same steps a client would: taking a pregnancy test and speaking with the women who worked there. She then wrote a second treatment informed by her research, but her own pregnancy subsequently led her to set the project aside.




  1. I have a friend who wants to get an abortion. She’s having a hard time getting pregnant though.

    Comment by Victoria Woodhull — March 13, 2020 @ 10:15 pm

  2. Why am not surprised that a shithead troll like “Victoria Woodhull” has a proxy ip address. I’ve yet to see anybody here with an IQ over 45 that is not using a high-risk proxy connection.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 13, 2020 @ 10:18 pm

  3. Patriarchal oppression… hahahahahaha! Wait, was it set in the Middle East? Reading….reading….nope. Cue the laugh again then.

    Comment by Matthew du Plessis — March 14, 2020 @ 1:08 pm

  4. Louis,

    Not to defend your troll (that was a pretty funny joke though), but VPNs are not in themselves “high-risk”. VPNs are essential for people who go online using public WiFi.

    Comment by Jeffrey St. Clair — March 14, 2020 @ 7:21 pm

  5. Jeff, I appreciate that but the one thing that’s been consistent since I began blogging 15 years ago is that none of my serious commenters, like the late Kevin Coogan about whom I will be writing tomorrow, use VPN’s. After all, these are not exactly people posting from Iran or China. Honestly, I don’t see why they bother. If you want to be an asshole, like the guy I banned 10 years ago for his anti-Semitic baiting, you can just as easily use a vanilla IP address. He used a Cambridge government IP address. A lot of good knowing that does me, as if I can track him down. Odd thing is that he has continued to write really hateful shit over the years that go directly into my trash folder. He is clearly in need of medication.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 14, 2020 @ 8:45 pm

  6. Louis,

    Fifteen years ago, there was no unsecured WiFi. It’s a different world. More people use VPNs every day. If Chelsea Manning had used a VPN, her life today would be much different.

    Comment by Jeffrey St. Clair — March 14, 2020 @ 8:53 pm

  7. Honestly you could just remove the moronic comments from idiots like “Victoria” and “Matthew” and nothing of value would be lost. You deserve a better standard of discourse on your blog. Narcissistic trolls feed off attention, removing their comments before anyone can see them makes them seethe impotently. I found this review moving and will try to watch this film.

    Comment by L — May 13, 2021 @ 10:48 pm

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