Film Review: SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER (UK 2019) ****

Sometimes Always Never Poster

A detective fantasy / family drama where a love of words helps a father reconnect with a missing son.


Carl Hunter

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.