Film Review: Sometimes Always Never (UK, 2018) is a quiet story that often feels like a scrabble in the dark

Sometimes Always Never proves its only words. This UK dramedy is about a father and son’s complex relationship. It has an English sensibility and a profound love for the Scrabble board game. The result is a quirky and whimsical character study that feels like it pans out in real-time.

This film at first was a short story by screenwriter, Frank Cottrell Boyce. He wrote the script for 24 Hour Party People, another feature that embraces its offbeat nature. While the idea for Sometimes Always Never works in a short format, it feels a bit too slight for an entire feature-length film, even with Carl Hunter’s good direction.

Bill Nighy stars as an eccentric and rather charming man named Alan. He is the father of two sons, the youngest one is named Peter and played by Control’s Sam Riley. The latter has been at loggerheads with Alan for years. The two actors have an intense chemistry but there are times where Alan’s character seems to implausible to be taken all that seriously. Kudos to Peter though, because despite the differences of opinion with his Dad, he has always been there to care of the old man.

Alan’s other son, Michael, has been missing for years. Michael disappeared after a heated game of Scrabble. This film sees Alan and Peter go on a brief road trip to find Michael. The rest of the film sees Alan ingratiate himself into Peter’s household. During his stay, Alan teaches his grandson (Louis Healy) a few tricks about appearances and playing games.

The proceedings here are quite nuanced. You get the sense that there is more here than meets the eye, but that this is not always realised. Alexei Sayle has a cameo along with Notting Hill’s Tim McInnerny. A soundtrack by Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice) propels the proceedings along but things don’t always click in this odd, little film. Side note: the name of this feature comes from Alan’s advice about buttoning up jackets, not that it matters a jot.

Sometimes Always Never tries hard to be a playful look at a father and son’s strained relationship and their battles. It makes some interesting observations about its rather English characters. But there is something a little too quiet and sleepy about this for its own good. This means it often feels like a scrabble in the dark, for the most part.

 

REVIEW SCORE: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Sometimes Always Never opens in cinemas nationally on 14 March.

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Natalie Salvo

My writing portfolio can be found at: https://nataliesalvo.wordpress.com/