May 9, 2019 Film & TV
Starring everyone’s favourite off-beat uncle Bill Nighy, Sometimes, Always, Never is an off-beat delight, writes Alex Blackwood.
Sartorially savvy readers will recognise the phrase “sometimes, always, never” as the buttoning guidelines for a suit jacket. Sometimes do the top one up, always the middle one, never do the bottom button up. The movie (based on the short story of the same name by Frank Cottrell Boyce) follows the impeccably dressed Alan (played by Bill Nighy) as he searches for his missing son, Michael, with the help of his non-missing son, Peter (Sam Riley). The theme of tailoring is touched upon: Alan is often shot sitting in his tailor shop, and fits his grandson, Jack, for a suit or two. But it’s actually Scrabble which is at the heart of the film. It’s how Alan expresses himself. All the fights; reconciliation and power moves of the movie come in form of the 100 letters game.
While it is clear Alan himself isn’t aware of the strength of his Scrabble based emotional core, neither really, are the film makers and to me that seems a shame.
However, if you’re a fan of Bill Nighy’s off-beat irreverence, this is the film for you. His performance in Sometimes, Always, Never gives the impression he wasn’t so much directed, rather just popped in place to do what he liked while those around him read from the script. He’s everyone’s weird and cool uncle who is at his funniest when left to his own devices – and the film allows him to be his weird and cool self.
The rest film seems to have absorbed a bit of that excellent oddness. Close ups on toy robots and spools of thread are lingered on without context, old black and white film clips are randomly spliced in and there are a couple of occasions where the camera stops to silently watch while almost nothing happens. At one point while two characters are arguing about something fairly serious, a boat sits in the background with its label clearly visible: Nauti Buoy.
Sometimes, Always, Never a little bit Wes Anderson in the way the shots are so meticulously framed and colour curated, a little bit Submarine in the serious-but-not-serious tone and muted colour palette. If you get Bill Nighy, this is the perfect rainy day watch.
Sometimes, Always, Never is in cinemas from May 13.