Bill Nighy in a scene from the movie Sometimes Always Never. Transmission Films.
Bill Nighy in a scene from the movie Sometimes Always Never. Transmission Films.

MOVIE REVIEW: Family drama is definitely not what you expect

YOU'D expect a drama about loss, love and regret to be heavy and dramatic, but Sometimes Always Never is not.

This delightfully offbeat British movie starring Bill Nighy and Sam Riley and directed by Carl Hunter has a surprisingly light touch and manages to be emotionally moving without being overwrought.

Sometimes Always Never is eccentric and stylised enough that it's unlikely to appeal to a broad audience, but those who do seek it out will be rewarded.

Alan (Nighy) has been searching for his son Michael for some time. Years earlier, Michael walked out of the family home after an argument over a game of Scrabble. He's not been seen or heard from since.

Alan and his other son Peter (Riley) have come together at a seaside town with a grim task - to see whether an unidentified body is that of Michael's.

While there overnight, they meet a couple that has come to look at the same body. Whiling away the time, Alan agrees to a game of Scrabble, revealing himself to be quite the shark, wise of the triple-word-score ways and playing the likes of "muzjik" (which is an indentured Russian servant, by the way).

 

Bill Nighy in a scene from the movie Sometimes Always Never. Picture: Transmission Films.
Bill Nighy in a scene from the movie Sometimes Always Never. Picture: Transmission Films.

 

This is a family obsessed with "lovely words", even if they are terrible at communicating.

The collection of seemingly random words, laid out on that Scrabble board for no purpose other to score something over your component, and not words with which you could use to form a sentence and express anything real, is symbolic of Alan and Peter's inability to connect with each other.

It's no coincidence that glass barriers often separate characters.

Alan moves in with Peter and his family and becomes entangled in their daily dramas, but can he learn to reconnect with the son that stayed, the one he's neglected while he's been busy obsessing over the one that left?

That is, until he starts to play online Scrabble with someone he's convinced is Michael, trying to send him a message through those little lettered tiles.

Bill Nighy in a scene from the movie Sometimes Always Never. Picture: Transmission Films.
Bill Nighy in a scene from the movie Sometimes Always Never. Picture: Transmission Films.

 

Alan is a mild-mannered man and a tailor by trade - the Sometimes Always Never title refers to the buttoning order on men's suit jackets. Alan also has the benefit of Nighy's full-bodied, doubled-over laughs - a phenomenon you could watch for hours.

It's a gorgeously crafted film with striking compositions and a detailed production design, with its timeless aesthetic, rich colours and patterns that makes everything feel slightly otherworldly.

Sometimes Always Never even manages to sneak in what is surely a cheeky reference to The Seventh Seal, so it's as far removed from a typical domestic drama as you can imagine - it's definitely not what you imagine it to be.

There's a formalism in the performances and the overall feel of Sometimes Always Never, which, as much as it is a stylistic choice, also serves to highlight how the characters have been emotionally paralysed by this event - Michael's absence - unable to move or feel freely, as if they're trapped in a museum diorama.

The effect is hypnotic - you wouldn't dare look away.

Sometimes, that makes the film feel emotionally distant, but the affecting ending ties together this sweet, kind-hearted film in a way that more than satisfies.

Rating: ★★★½

Sometimes Always Never is in cinemas from today.

Share your movies and TV obsessions: @wenleima


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