NEVER is a triple word score of a film, literate, eloquent, elegant and laugh out loud sartorial mix of syntax, vocabulary and word play.
Bill Nighy plays Alan, a stylish tailor and Scrabble hustler. He has spent years searching tirelessly for his missing son, Michael, who stormed out tile-less after a game of Scrabble.
Frank Cottrell Boyce’s elegiac screenplay is an idiosyncratic retelling of the The Prodigal Son parable. Michael has disappeared, but it is younger son, Peter, who has been invisible to Alan in the years since Michael’s absence.
Absence, it’s been said, makes the heart grow fonder, and when Alan recruits Peter as possee in pursuit of possibly clearing up the mystery of Michael’s disappearance, the absence makes for a rebonding between remaining son and father.
Words worthiness has seldom been more worthwhile or mirth while, simultaneously whimsical and steadfast than in SOMETIMES, NEVER, ALWAYS, with ideas and emotions so exquisitely expressed.
And the script is beautifully expressed by a troupe of peerless performers – Bill Nighy restraining some of his trademark ticks and tricks to play the tailor and logophile, Alan, scrabbling at any semblance of hope of finding the missing Michael. It’s a finely measured performance, a bespoke characterisation of focus and fancy as he follows the tiniest threads that may fashion a finish to his quest while relishing stitching up Scrabble players with obscure lexicon.
Sam Riley is perfect as the perplexed Peter, puzzled not only by his father’s pursuit of pinpointing the prodigal, but by the changing landscape of his own family relationship with wife, Sue, played with sublime comic timing by Alice Lowe, and son, Jack, Louis Healy, making an impressive feature film debut.
Jenny Agutter and Tim McInnerny play a couple, Margaret and Arthur, who have lost their son, a simpatico acquaintance evolves, culminating in Alan measuring Margaret’s inside leg.
The articulate and eloquent script is augmented by an arresting visual style by director Carl Hunter and his cinematographer, Richard Stoddard. The composition of father and son in the frame, the use of back projection and lo fi animation emphasise the emotional time capsule the pair are trapped in.
Tim Dickel’s production design and Lance Milligan’s costume design beautifully enhance the world created in the screenplay, as does the score by Edwyn Collins.
Sometimes screwball, never boring and always captivating, SOMETIMES, NEVER, ALWAYS is an absolutely unmissable cinema experience