Produced by Sol Papadopoulos,
Alan Latham, Roy Boulter
Written by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Directed by Carl Hunter
Starring Bill Nighy, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe,
Jenny Agutter, Tim McInnerny,
Louis Healy, Ella-Grace Gregoire
Sometimes Always Never is a solid title for this very enjoyable movie.
Unfortunately, it is being released within months of the very similarly named critical darling, Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
This film is a nicely modulated comedy/drama that explores the dysfunctional relationship between a tailor (the always-great Billy Nighy) and his adult son, played with just the right amount of exasperation and nearly-depleted patience by Sam Riley.
The two are initially brought together to identify the body of Riley’s brother, who disappeared after storming out of the family home after a heated game of Scrabble.
Or, to be exact, “Scrobble”.
One of Riley’s frustrations with his dad that still bothers him is that he and his brother, Michael, always had to make do with cheap knock-offs that his single parent pop would foist upon them. For example, a crummy Scrabble clone dubbed “Scrobble” with flimsy cardboard tiles.
It turns out that the body in question is not the Prodigal Son, so the mystery lingers on.
In the meantime, Nighy has insinuated himself into the lives of Riley and his wife and teenage son, sleeping on the latter’s bottom bunk and commandeering his laptop, playing word games for much of his stay.
At one point, while going head-to-head online with a player with the handle Skinny Thesauras, Nighy begins to suspect that he’s found his long-lost son.
The acting is aces across the board here. Tim McInnerny (Notting Hill) and still-lovely Jenny Agutter (An American Werewolf in London) are perfection as a couple who’ve lost their passion. Louis Healy feels utterly real as a typical male teenager, the wonderful Alice Rowe (Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) is a joy as Riley’s wife, who loves to affectionately embarrass her son in front of his crush, the luminous and appealing Ella-Grace Gregoire (who, luckily for Healy, finds Rowe’s antics and his awkward reactions endearing).
I love that the movie finds small moments to cherish as well, such as when a diner waitress tells Riley her favorite word: soap, popping the “p” like a bubble.
Charming bits like the above and really, the overall tone bring to mind the best work of whimsical filmmakers such as Bill Forsyth (Comfort and Joy) and Gillian Armstrong (Starstruck).
A particularly satisfying wrap-up as the icing on the cake, Sometimes Always Never is sweet, charming and moving.
Sometimes Always Never is now available On Demand.