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Review: Bill Nighy’s charm elevates cheeky 'Sometimes Always Never'

Courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment


Carl Hunter’s “Sometimes Always Never” is a cheeky little comedy that is carried by the charm of Brit staple Bill Nighy. The film has a whimsical aesthetic in its DNA as the opening scenes of Alan (Nighy) traveling in a car with his son, Peter (Sam Riley), are against a storybook backdrop, purposely constructed to look flimsy as the car bobbles up and down. 

These elements are peppered throughout “Sometimes Always Never,” which might be the first comedy to solely be driven by the board game Scrabble. So much so, you’d think the popular crossword empire paid to have their product incorporated throughout much of the movie. 

From the start, Alan is a rascally personality and we can’t quite put our finger on him (he stops old ladies in the street to tell them of how they remind him of a popular band). Later on at a nearby bed and breakfast, when he challenges an unsuspecting couple to a friendly game of Scrabble, it becomes more clear why he acts and behaves the way he does. Alan is the prodigal son of the word game, and hustles folks into a betting match before he destroys them with words like “muzjik.” 

But we learn Scrabble isn’t just a hobby for Alan, it’s a way of life and one of the reasons his eldest son, Michael, walked out on him years ago. And just when you think “Sometimes Always Never” was aiming for a fluffy comedy with minor emotional stakes, Hunter pulls the rug from under us and begins framing the true meaning of what the film will encapsulate.

The film has a daft and earnest production design, but the script bounces around many of its central themes, foregoing big confrontations and screaming matches in favor of honest conversations between Alan and Peter. Inevitably, Alan starts to find a connection with his grandson, Jack (Louis Healy) - over Scrabble of course - which mine as well be ripped from the indie cliché handbook, but Hunter allows the characters to breath enough for it to seem authentic.

“Sometimes Always Never” knows it’s working with a slightly thin premise – the second half of the film revolves around Alan going on a mission to track down his long-lost son via an online Scrabble chatroom – but we know Alan is a man with morals and understanding, therefore making his journey worth the investment. It helps that Riley and Nighy manage to find the soft crunchy center despite the film taking the mystery subplot a step farther then needed and ending on a cheesy sentimental note. 

Sometimes what you’re looking for is right in front of you. Who would have ever thought of that? 

Grade: B

Sometimes Always Never will have a virtual theatrical release across the country starting Friday June 12th before heading to digital on-demand platforms July 10th.


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