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"SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER"
(2020) (Bill Nighy, Sam Riley) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A man tries to find his long-missing son, all while his second son tries to deal with their tenuous relationship.
PLOT:

Alan Mellor (BILL NIGHY) is a stylish tailor who's shown up in a coastal town to meet his adult son, Peter (SAM RILEY), to check whether a recently discovered body is that of Peter's long-missing brother, Michael. Also, there are Arthur (TIM McINNERNY) and Margaret (JENNY AGUTTER) whose son is likewise missing, and they and Alan try to divert their troubles by a game of Scrabble the night before meeting the coroner.

When Alan and Peter learn it's not Michael, they return home, with Alan unexpectedly showing up Peter's home -- where he lives with his wife, Sue (ALICE LOWE), and their teenage son, Jack (LOUIS HEALY), who's smitten with a teen he sees every day on the bus, Rachel (ELLA-GRACE GREGOIRE).

Peter has misgivings about his father, not only from his childhood where they played with second-rate knock-off toys rather than the real thing, but also from their father viewing him as second-rate compared to the prodigal son.

With Alan bonding with his grandson and using his computer in hopes of finding Michael through an online Scrabble community, Peter tries to mend his relationship with his dad.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

I'm sure professional and amateur psychologists would have a field day with the following, but when it comes to losing family members, friends, and even pets, I prefer not to see them deceased. Yes, it's a coping mechanism for a certain stage of grief, but I like to think of the dearly departed being off on some grand adventure where our paths will someday cross again rather than being, you know, dead.

I realize that the meet again part is an element of many religions, and that adopting a "they're not deceased, there're just away" mindset stymies the usual psychological need for closure, but that's just how I roll, so to speak.

That said, the lack of closure is an awful mind and soul parasite for those whose family members, friends, or, yes, even pets go missing, with nary an indication of whether they might possibly still be alive out there somewhere or that they've passed on from this life.

That's the genesis of the storyline that fuels "Sometimes Always Never" (not to be confused with this year's rather similarly titled "Never Rarely Sometimes Always"). In it, the always great Bill Nighy plays Alan, a likely sixty-something, stylish tailor whose son Michael has disappeared without a trace sometime in the past.

Maybe I missed the time reference, but the creative folks behind the camera -- screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce and director Carl Hunter -- don't indicate exactly when that occurred, although it appears it's been quite a while.

In that interim, the second son, Peter (Sam Riley) -- married to Sue (Alice Lowe) with whom he has a teenage, online game addicted son, Jack (Louis Healy) -- has grown even further apart from his dad. Some of that revolves around hating the second fiddle position he's had apparently since birth with the rest stemming from him still holding a grudge about his single dad having always given them second-rate, knock-off toys rather than the real thing.

Ignorant to that fact or simply not caring, Alan ends up crashing at Pete's house and bunking with Jack who ends having more time to romantically pursue Rachel (Ella-Grace Gregoire) now that his granddad is monopolizing his computer. And that's because Alan is seemingly addicted to online Scrabble, with the reason for that -- beyond being a wordsmith -- eventually being explained.

Working with what appears to be a shoestring budget -- including some not-particularly believable or even realistic rear-screen projection shots for scenes set inside vehicles in motion -- Hunter is going for a whimsical meets melancholy tone with the material. Alas, while neither is of the nails down the chalkboard variety, they don't ever hit the mark as strongly let alone memorably as presumably intended. As a result, the flick feels a bit too long -- even at just 91 minutes -- for what ultimately plays out.

Thankfully, Nighy brings enough of his considerable cool charm to the role to offset, to one degree or another, some of those problems, while Riley delivers a decent performance as the overlooked son. Even with that, and while I wouldn't want to see the flick die in its release, I don't have any problem having it head off never to be seen again. "Sometimes Always Never" rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed July 9, 2020 / Posted July 10, 2020


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