Directed by: Carl Hunter
Premise: A father (Bill Nighy) has spent years looking for his eldest son who stormed out of the house after an argument over a game of Scrabble. Pursuing a new lead, he stays with his younger son (Sam Riley) and his family for a few days and reconnects with them.
What Works: Sometimes Always Never retells a prodigal son story with a unique visual style and a glib sense of humor. The picture is primarily about Alan, a man who has spent years searching for the son who walked out on the family. Alan is an intellectual and he obsesses over language and word puzzles. He is very competitive at Scrabble, so much so that Alan hustles a man out of some money over a game. But as in many prodigal son stories, the father’s fussing over his missing progeny has emotionally removed him from the son who remained. Alan is played by Bill Nighy and this is the kind of goofy and likable character that Nighy does well. He is paired with Sam Riley as the younger son and Nighy and Riley play off each other. Nighy’s character is always calm but he’s also always right and likes to point this out to his son. The way the father grates on his son’s nerves while appearing to do nothing is quite authentic and frequently funny. It also visualizes for us how and why the elder son left. The picture is droll but also earnest and there is a good heartedness about Sometimes Always Never that complements its visual style. The film employs unusual color schemes and lenses as well as some animated inserts. It’s never distractingly stylized but this gives the movie an unusual feel and supports the offbeat tone.
What Doesn’t: Sometimes Always Never is a lightweight movie. It moves along breezily with a sense of humor and likable characters but the film is perhaps a little too light for its own good. This is the story of a family member gone missing and although it’s unknown whether the elder son is dead or not, he may as well be. The filmmakers underplay the grief and the characters never really confront their loss. Sometimes Always Never is primarily about Bill Nighy’s character reconnecting with the family that he has left. His younger son feels spurned by his father’s endless search for the sibling who abandoned the family and the two of them have to work out their own estrangement. The resolution of their story is a little too easy and inconclusive. There is no act of sacrifice or catharsis and the ending is a bit underwhelming.
DVD extras: Trailer.
Bottom Line: Sometimes Always Never is an agreeable mix of comedy and family drama. The picture doesn’t land very hard but it is stylish and likable in much the same way as a Wes Anderson film.
Episode: #828 (November 22, 2020)