FILM: Sometimes Always Never

Written by Jasmijn van houten

 
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Father and son are cramped into a tiny red car while a caricatured pastoral English landscape passes them by. It could be the beginning of a weekend road trip, but the pair are on their way to the morgue.

It’s a suitably odd beginning to family drama meets detective mystery film Sometimes Always Never.

Bill Nighy is exceptional as Alan, a bitter, witty grandfather with a love for label-makers who reckons that “the only good thing about jazz is that it scores very highly in Scrabble.” Tailor by day, wordsmith by night: he’s on a mission to find his missing son Michael, who stormed out over a game of scrabble, with his long-suffering other son, Peter (Sam Riley) along for the ride.

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Sometimes Always Never is director Carl Hunter’s feature film debut. While it has plenty of that classic dark British humour, at heart, the film shares a quiet yet quirky family drama story that’s told with style.

Nighy always seems to play exactly the same character in every film, but there’s no harm in it when he has it down to such an art.

The film has that very Wes Anderson feel to it - something that plagues a lot of indie films - and it’s impossible to avoid drawing comparisons, from the considered, detailed staging of every shot to the subject matter: a father and son figuring out how to survive and learn to love each other. It lacks the level of agonising polish that Anderson is now so renowned for, but where it lacks in polish it makes up for with heart as the narrative follows a broken family learning to appreciate life for what they have.

Yet it’s the rich setting that gives so much to the film - and provides much of the humour. Director Carl Hunter favours a wide lens and doesn’t shy away from distortion. The focus is shallow, with some shots barely focused at all. This imperfection is a nice touch, and lends a dreamlike quality to the film. The set design is pervasively and almost humorously just a little bit too small - the characters move around the spaces like dolls in an imperfect doll house.

Strong performances like Nighy’s, and loving and detailed design help bring a kind-hearted touch to Hunter’s debut film. At a tiny ninety minutes, it’s hard not to feel invested in this film.

7/10

Sometimes Always Never is showing at select Australian cinemas from March 15. Click here to view locations near you.