Sometimes Always Never
Bill Nighy, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe, Jenny Agutter
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…sweet without being cloying and quirky without being stupid…
You know you have really achieved some special place in the public’s consciousness when just your name calls forth an instant picture of you as a type. English actor Bill Nighy has this in spades. You could compare him to someone like Hugh Grant, who cornered the market as the dithering Englishman who can’t quite bring himself to say what we know he wants to. But Nighy is a slightly different animal, and actually more three dimensional. The veteran thesp always seems to surprise you whilst being essentially the same. There’s something so effortless about his performances that they must be based on lots of hard work.
In this very slight but very charming English comedy (well, comedy drama) he plays Alan, a man in later life who is still working through his issues and driving his family mad whilst doing so. Alan was a tailor, which is the perfect profession for someone who cares about doing things just right. The irony is that he doesn’t realise that his eccentricities and obsessiveness drive others up the wall. A long time ago, Alan’s son Michael disappeared, and he has been both searching for him and searching his own conscience as to why he left in the first place. When Alan hears that there may be a sighting of the lost son, he heads off to reconnect with his other son and to investigate.
The script is based on a short story by prolific TV and big screen writer Frank Cottrell Boyce (Millions, Goodbye Christopher Robin). Boyce has a very well-judged sense of how to make the characters and situations charming but not stray into affectation. He also clearly loves Scrabble and there are some wonderful little scenes concerning this addictive and iconic game including a great early sequence in which Alan hustles a fellow guest (Tim McInnerny) he meets at a hotel. Sometimes, British films get it just right in terms of being sweet without being cloying and quirky without being stupid. This is such a film, a charming little sleeper that will please audiences for a long time to come.