How does one tell the story of a grieving and witty Scrabble enthusiast and his tense and awkward relationship with his son? Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and directed by Carl Hunter, the film is an homage to the greats of idiosyncratic filmmaking with a touch of the tried and true dark humour of British comedy. Perfect for such a quirky premise.
Bill Nighy and Sam Reid play the father and son duo who are in a lifelong tense battle. Alan is a man who does not hide from his tempered disdain for his son, as his prodigal son disappeared years prior. Peter carries the burden of the years of coming up second best to his missing brother. The film takes place at the near breaking point of their relationship, when the meet up to identify a body.
The film’s direction and editing is executed with great precision. The idiosyncratic nature is very Wes Anderson-esque, injected with a healthy dose of despair and melancholy. Nighy’s droll and deadpan delivery is in sync with the film. Reid nails the deadpan execution but he lacks the sense of whimsy needed to sell the premise of the film. Everyone else teeters on the edge but stick the landing as an ensemble of quirky and off-beat characters.
Running at about 90 minutes the film feels exceptionally long as it keeps up a rather monotonous tone from beginning to end. There is neither an escalation or deescalation of the plot, it just keeps carrying on to the end. However, there is a cleverness to the film that cannot be disputed. The use of Scrabble to illustrate the complex, competitive, and silly nature of the father-son’s communication. If the film just tightened up a bit, it would be ace.
In the end, there is nothing quite like watching a Bill Nighy vehicle. He is as compelling as ever, leaning into the distinct persona that he has crafted throughout his years acting. The film is so clearly informed by Nighy’s unique way of speaking and moving, and how disarming his charm can be. And, for that, it is worth the watch.
Sometimes Always Never is available on VOD on July 10th
by Ferdosa Abdi