Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sometimes Always Never – the charming and witty story of a Scrabble shark who knows about losing #bff19

The last time I sat in the very front row of a Belfast cinema was on a snowy day after queueing outside in the snow for two or more hours to see ET in the ABC cinema where Jurys Inn now stands.

Last Sunday night, the front row held the last two remaining seats together in Queen’s Film Theatre’s screen 1 which was showing the sold out Sometimes Always Never as part of Belfast Film Festival. While I feared a crick in my neck, they were remarkably comfortable.

Even better was the film. I’m a sucker for nearly anything Bill Nighy appears in, even if he sometimes plays a single, transferable, hesitant, overly-polite character no matter the film name printed on the ticket. But Sometimes Always Never gives him a chance to work his magic on less predictable characterisation.

It’s a story split over two parts and three generations. The initial road trip sees Alan Mellor (Bill Nighy) as a grandfather and a tailor who travels with his son Peter (Sam Riley) to see if they can identify a body washed up on the shore in a town around the coast from where they live. Staying overnight in an unmodernised hotel, he hustles another guest (Arthur played by Tim McInnerny) into a sizeable side bet around a game of Scrabble.

Then it switches to be a domestic drama, enjoying the injections of Scrabble strategy and wordplay as the generations learn more about each other and straighten out the tensions among the living while the prodigal son remains missing. Alan’s interactions with grandson Jack (Louis Healy) are very positive and eventually explain the titular three-button suit rule.

The women in the Frank Cottrell Boyce’s screenplay are neither central nor disposable. Ella-Grace Gregoire’s minor role as the apple of young Jack’s eye is well acted, while Jenny Agutter’s interactions with foolish husband Arthur and the charming Alan are fun while they last.

Despite the very soft focus throughout the 91-minute film, classic cars, my childhood friend the Dymo label machine, and the patterned and dowdy locations that keep on suggesting that the story is set in the past, Sometimes Always Never is set in the age of smartphones and online word games.

The moral of the story is that we should value the ordinary over the absent, and consider whether we really know our loved ones. The Mellor family have plenty of words at their fingertips but are terrible at communicating.

Sometimes Always Never could easily be reimagined as a stage play. On the silver screen it is a charming, eccentric and witty story of a Scrabble shark who knows about losing. Screened as part of Belfast Film Festival, watch out for Sometimes Always Never’s return to UK cinema screens from 14 June.

1 comment:

John Medd said...

Ah, the front row. Always my favourite location in any fleapit - no big hats and rustling crisp bags in front of ya, and...LEG ROOM!

Bill Nighy is a legend, and Sometimes Always Never comes to our local in June. Can't wait.

Great blog btw.