Hardscrabble Life

This family drama scratches the surface but goes no deeper

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Sometimes Always Never
Roxy Theatre

Opens Oct. 11
2 out of 5

It seems we’ve reached peak #daddyissues at the multiplex. First there was The Lion King, then Ad Astra and Joker, and now Sometimes Always Never which features yet another son wrestling with an absent father.

If Winnipeg director Guy Maddin were to make an audience-friendly flick in colour, it might look like this. Years after his younger son disappeared, Alan (Bill Nighy) continues searching for him. There is no great urgency — following up on a lead is more a ritual than an active pursuit. Still, it’s taken a toll on his older son Peter (Sam Riley, On the Road), a sad sack who resents being taken for granted by his father.

The vicious circle starts breaking down when Alan hustles a man (also looking for his child) out of 200 quid and seduces his wife. Turns out the obsessed, grieving father is a Scrabble genius who is not above using his skills for mischief.

Sometimes Always Never moves at a glacial pace towards a predictable father-and-son reckoning. We’re also treated to Peter’s family life and his own son’s first romantic relationship, all profoundly dull. The film coasts on Nighy’s charm and Riley’s simmering anger. As good as both are, it doesn’t carry the movie far.

The story is coated in surrealism. But it’s a flourish first-time feature director Carl Hunter can’t support with substance, except for a couple of good Scrabble tips (it’s not about letters, it’s about numbers).

Without a plot worth caring for, I found my attention drifting to the production design. It’s reminiscent of Wes Anderson, but on the cheap. Once in a while the film delivers a beautiful composition. It’s not nearly enough to keep anyone interested, but it’s nice, I guess.