Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bill Nighy, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe, Jenny Agutter, Tim McInnerny, Louis Healy, Alexei Sayle
Written by: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Directed by: Carl Hunter
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and some sexual references
Running Time: 91
Date: 06/12/2020

Sometimes Always Never (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Hardest Button to Button

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though it may seem like the epitome of a "quirky" indie dramedy, Sometimes Always Never establishes itself as something different with its rich, polychrome production design, looking like a more somber Wes Anderson film or a more lightweight David Lynch film. Strange statues resting in green nooks are nestled in blood-red walls, while arcs of light and doorways create odd and wonderful framing. It brings a slightly unreal quality to the movie, and when the characters don't act totally realistically, it feels okay.

Billy Nighy stars as Alan, a tailor who loves Scrabble and searches for his eldest son Michael, who stormed out during a game years back and never returned. He and his other son Peter (Sam Riley) travel to identify a body that may be Michael, and they meet another couple (Jenny Agutter and Tim McInnerny) also going to identify the same body. Upon returning, Alan unexpectedly comes to stay with Peter, crashing in the bottom bunk in the bedroom of his teen grandson Jack (Louis Healy), and taking over Jack's computer to play online Scrabble. He thinks he recognizes the playing strategy of one particular player and believes that it could be Michael.

That doesn't read like a very coherent plot, and it isn't, but the rhythms of the movie are so weirdly endearing that we don't mind watching the characters chat or argue between important events. Carl Hunter makes his feature directing debut here, and the screenplay is by veteran writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, who is best known for his serious work with Michael Winterbottom. Alexei Sayle appears as a crazy old salt by the seaside. The title refers to the three buttons on a gentleman's coat, and when they are to be buttoned. Not to be confused with Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

Sometimes Always Never opening in virtual cinemas on June 12, 2020 (see official site for details) and will be available on demand July 10, 2020.

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