I loved the droll humour in the slow-moving Sometimes Always Never. The film features the supreme acting of Bill Nighy at his aloof best. The plot concerns a Scrabble-obsessed family and the impact the game has had on their lives.
Nighy plays a Merseyside tailor, Alan, whose eldest son, Michael, stormed out of the house after a particularly heated round of the popular board game, never to return. Years later, Alan and his other son, Peter (Sam Riley) continue the search while trying to repair their own strained relationship.
The characters make this film, notably father and younger son, who clash frequently. Alan just goes about his business, regardless of what Peter might say. Alan will not be shifted from the way he is. Alan infuriates Peter just by being who he is and I couldn’t think of a better actor for the role than Nighy.
But, Sometimes Always Never is far from a two-hander. Peter’s wife Sue (Alice Lowe) also features. They have a teenage son, who is courting a girl and whose grandfather exerts a rather strong influence on him in more ways than one.
Further, there is a couple that Alan and Peter meet at an overnight accommodation stop. An amusing, and not all that friendly, game of Scrabble follows before another meeting of the quartet in a morgue.
Sometimes Always Never has been masterfully written by veteran screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce (Goodbye Christopher Robin), who has employed a great deal of wit of the process. Liverpudlian director Carl Hunter, too, is to be congratulated for his striking visual style. The production design captures the shifting moods of a family that know plenty of words but struggle to communicate. The cinematography by Richard Stoddard is also a feature.
Incidentally, the title is a refence to buttons that should or shouldn’t be done up on a suit, keeping in mind again that Alan is a tailor. Undoubtedly one of the quirkiest movies of the year, Sometimes Always Never is a fine piece of craftsmanship that will appeal to those who champion those with a different mind set.
Director: Carl Hunter
Cast: Bill Nighy, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe, Jenny Agutter
Release Date: 14 March 2019
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.