@Filmhouse, Edinburgh until Tue 18 Jun 2019
The title of this film is about as cohesive as the meandering elements that weave aimlessly around the basic narrative. It’s not that it’s confusing, it’s that it’s irritating.
The story’s protagonist, Alan (Bill Nighy), has been searching for his missing son for many years. His other son, Peter (Sam Riley), feels the imbalance of his father’s focus on this and has a massive chip on his shoulder as a result. Peter complains that all through his childhood he had second rate versions of originals, that his father would never buy the ‘real thing.’ Yet this is just how he feels, the second rate version of his father’s favourite.
Alan is a tailor and this is where the title comes in. He describes the rules of buttoning a jacket as sometimes (top button), always (middle button) and never (bottom button). Alan is also crazy about scrabble and words and as you might expect from a character played by Bill Nighy, ever so slightly eccentric.
At first, Nighy’s performance seems stilted but builds momentum as moments of genius comedy acting and dialogue slip in. This is contrasted with darker themes and direction that wouldn’t be out of place in a thriller. Nighy is, as always, an electric watch, bringing his warmth, depth and wit to the role of Alan, and the cast is all very strong if lacking in anything to get their teeth into plot-wise. There are a lot of incidentals and themes bubbling under the surface of Sometimes Always Never.
It’s a slow (sometimes too slow), thoughtful piece with some odd half-blurry, half-clear camera shots going on. There’s also a massively retro, vintage vibe. The environments and clothing mainly appear to be plucked from bygone decades to the extent it seems at first that this could be a 1950s era movie. That is until Nighy plucks a smartphone from his pocket and starts playing interactive word puzzles.
This is a bit of a weird, rambling piece about paternal relationships – the latter factor making it ideal timing for a father’s day release. There’s plenty more depth to be mined in this otherwise gentle movie if you’re prepared to put in the work. It certainly gives it’s audience space to think, unlike the majority of popularity-seeking Hollywood churn outs.