Bill Nighy. Scrabble. Frank Cottrell Boyce. A winning combination as far as I’m concerned and Sometimes Always Never has the stylistically quirkiness of a Wes Anderson film but with depth and a gentle warmth.
Alan (Nighy) is a tailor who seems to have two loves; Scrabble and his son Michael who walked out after an argument over the game and has never returned. His other son Peter (Sam Riley) knows he comes a distant third in his father’s affections and simmers with resentment. Peter’s wife Sue (Alice Lowe) is caught between the two fractious, self absorbed men and worries for her son Jack (Louis Healy) who spends all his time online gaming.
The loss of Michael is a tenuous thread that reluctantly binds Alan and Peter, taking them to a seaside town to identify a body. It is the reason their relationship has broken down but seems the only thing they still have in common. In many ways this is a film about fatherhood; we see what happens when the authority and love of a father is absent through Peter’s experiences and also through Jack. He is another lost son and his life is transformed through the seemingly benign (but not) intervention of Alan. Woven through are themes of loss and grief, shown beautifully through the story of Arthur (Tim McInnerny) and Margaret (Jenny Agutter), a couple who also have a lost son.
The style of the film is quirky and there are unexplained, almost unnoticed moments that give it a naive quality; the woman with the wrapped table lamp, the dog portrait on the wall, the figures on the beach. It feels like the distorted surrealism of memory, accentuated by art direction that is solidly 1970s although the story is contemporary, judging by the online games. We are all stuck in Alan and Peter’s past it seems, as if life ended when Michael left.
There are no great dramas in the story but there is a beautiful and gentle catharsis that will leave you feeling gently satisfied. And you’ll pick up some keen Scrabble tips.
Have you seen this film? Isn’t the explanation of the title delightful? That’s something that will stay with me. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.