Eliza Hittman started formulating the idea for her new film “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” after reading about a woman named Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 after being denied what would have been a life-saving abortion. Hittman’s film tells the story of an American teenager named Autumn seeking an abortion of her own, only to find obstacles at every turn. It was important for the writer-director to be true to life, so she sought out the perspectives of those who worked at Planned Parenthood and other clinics. “I would tour clinics and meet with doctors and meet with social workers and try and ingest as much information as I could about how these conversations unfold,” says Hittman in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby, “but more specifically, what it’s like to interact with minors who travel from out of state.” Watch the full interview above.
One of the key components of “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” is that Autumn is not alone in her journey to New York to get the abortion. Her cousin, Skylar, joins her on the trip, providing unspoken moral support. Hittman drew on past experiences helping friends through their own difficult experiences at clinics. “I’ve gone with many friends to Planned Parenthood for various reasons and there’s a fundamental compassion that you have with someone going through those things,” she observes. She was also careful to not make Autumn or Skylar into the kinds of easy-classifiable stereotypes we see in numerous films about teenagers.
Playing the part of Autumn, who goes through an immense internal journey, would be a difficult task for any actor, particularly one making their film debut. This is what makes Sidney Flanigan‘s performance so remarkable, and Hittman reveals that her star had a full understanding of Autumn. Even in the film’s most emotionally raw scene, the one that gives the film its name, Flanigan was ready, in part because Hittman gave the young performer a safe space on set that day. “We prepared in a little room an office in Planned Parenthood but kept her alone and isolated before we shot so that she was really in the right headspace before shooting the film.”
Hittman and Flanigan have been earning major awards attention for their work, with both earning wins from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards among many others. This is admittedly new territory for Hittman as she notes, “I don’t think that I make films that are unanimously palatable and I don’t think I’ll ever be that filmmaker.” The fact that she is getting such attention despite her film being unconventional as an awards player makes the recognition “more meaningful in a way.”
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