“Sometimes Always Never” is a quiet story that often feels like a scrabble in the dark

One has to love the ambiguous title SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER. The title is as smart as its quirky script, its occasionally brilliant dialogue and the crazy way it brings the game of scrabble into the story. But the title is not as innocent as it seems. The protagonist is a tailor and the 3 words have significant meaning with reference to a suit.

The title refers to the Sometimes, Always, Never Three-Button Rule. When wearing a suit with three buttons a man should sometimes button the top button, depending on the style of the suit, always button the middle button, and never button the bottom button.

Everyone loves a good story. SOMETIMES ALWAYS MAYBE has one of the best premises ever thought of. If that is not enough, there is a twist in the plot that no one would ever predict. Director Hunter is also playful enough (there is also a splash of colour, particularly red) to go with the material as evident at the start of the film. Some animation is inserted to put some bite into the storytelling.

Firstly, scrabble has everything to do with the story. Alan (Golden Globe Winner Bill Nighy) is a stylish tailor with moves as sharp as his suits.

He has spent years searching tirelessly for his missing son Michael (Sam Riley) who stormed out over a game of scrabble. With a body to identify and his family torn apart, Alan must repair the relationship with his youngest son Peter and solve the mystery of an online player who he thinks could be Michael, so he can finally move on and reunite his family. In short, it is about a lonely man trying to gain the love lost of his missing son. Alan is also a scrabble pro.

My favourite dialogue in the script is the spill on the reason there is no marmite in Canada. This has significant meaning for me as I grew up on it and bovril in Singapore but never realized the fact about marmite being banned by the government in Canada for its refusal to disclose a secret ingredient. Such are the little pleasures in the film.

Actor Nighy is always good in all his performances, again adding dignity in the role of a distraught old man. Jenny Agutter plays Margaret, always a delight to watch, having seen her when she was much, much younger in films like THE RAILWAY CHILDREN and LOGAN’S RUN.

Though the film has a protagonist in his senior years about to settle the one mystery in his life, the story has universal appeal as it coves other issues like family relationships and senior romancing while being current with day to day stuff like gaming and cell phones.

Does Alan find his missing son in the end? Alan does in a different way. Frank Cottrell Boyce (MILLIONS, CODE 46, GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN) gets my vote for most original script of the year.

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.


Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and some sexual references)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Carl Hunter
Stars: Bill Nighy, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe
Written By: Frank Cottrell Boyce
In Theaters: Mar 6, 2020 Limited
Runtime: 91 minutes
Studio: Blue Fox Entertainment


Anne T. Donahue
It’s no real murder-mystery, but it does pose questions that transcend who did what to whom and when. One of which being whether or not you can really play “jazz” in Scrabble.

Leslie Felperin
Often, the whole shebang plays like a rattle bag of tropes, digressions and stray running gags. Then again, that randomness is perfectly apt…

Charlotte O’Sullivan
An off-beat comedy written by Frank Cottrell Boyce in which Bill Nighy plays a controlling, mordantly witty Scouser coming to terms with the unwritten rules of life.

Sandra Hall
The appeal of a Bill Nighy character is hard to pin down. While his overall attitude to life is pessimistic, an irresistible desire to look for the joke lurking behind the bad news keeps breaking through and brightening the picture.

Author: OKC

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