Never Rarely Sometimes Always The Ten Best Films of 2020

The title is the list of possible answers to a series of sensitive questions a social worker asks a pregnant teenager seeking an abortion. Real-life social worker Kelly Chapman, who assisted writer/director Eliza Hittman with her research for the film, gently asks Autumn (newcomer Sidney Flanigan) about abuse and consent, in case a safety plan is necessary following the procedure. As she tries to select the right option to answer each question, we see a dozen memories and emotions flicker across her face. It is one of the year’s most unforgettable scenes. We never find out who is responsible for Autumn’s pregnancy or what the circumstances were, but her answer to questions about whether she consented to sexual contact is not “always.”

Autumn and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) take a bus from Pennsylvania to New York because that is the only way Autumn can get an abortion without her mother and stepfather finding out. In an interview, Hittman told me she wanted to “reclaim the narrative” on reproductive rights with a woman’s perspective. She tells the story with great tenderness, more protective of the two girls than the other characters are. Hittman’s intimate, documentary tone illuminates the girls’ vulnerability, their determination, and their resilience. (Nell Minow)

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