In Carl Hunter’s debut feauture, Bill Nighy (The Bookshop, Their Finest, Pride) shines as Alan, an eccentric, retired tailor with a uniquely keen talent for Scrabble—and for hustling strangers in games. However, the pleasure he takes in Scrabble is tainted by the memory of his long-lost, favoured son, who stormed out while playing one night and was never seen again.
Shielding himself from the cruelties of the world with a cloak of quirky peculiarities and a gruff demeanor, Alan has made it his life’s work to locate his missing son. His efforts have not yielded much, except to effectively estrange him from his other son, Peter (Sam Riley, Suite Française) whose feelings of being second best are not much assuaged by his father’s obsessive quest. Father and son seem to share only one common quality: an inability to understand each other.
When Alan moves in with Peter and his family to improve their relationship, he manages to make gentle inroads with Peter’s introverted adolescent son, Jack (Louis Healy)—a demonstration of paternal connection that Peter resents in more ways than one. While living with Peter, Alan comes across an online Scrabble player who plays in a fashion eerily similar to that of his missing son. As the mystery of the online player’s identity deepens, Alan and Peter’s strained relationship teeters on the brink of calamity.
Featuring quietly powerful performances from both Nighy and Riley, Sometimes Always Never employs an English eccentricity, visual inventiveness and a whimsically offbeat style that makes for a lovely tale of how difficult it can sometimes be for even the most loquacious of us to simply spell it out.
“An off-beat comedy written by Frank Cottrell Boyce in which Bill Nighy plays a controlling, mordantly witty Scouser coming to terms with the unwritten rules of life.” (Charlotte O’Sullivan, London Evening Standard)
“The sweet emotional payoff is an unexpected reward.” (Kevin Maher, Times UK)
“This film is a distinct, articulate pleasure.” (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
“The precision in the shot composition is mirrored in the storytelling – there’s an unassuming elegance that balances the eccentricity of a film that makes something as mundane as Scrabble into a taut dramatic device.” (Wendy Ide, The Observer)