Rarely Sometimes Always
SPOILER ALERT: It's
impossible to talk about this film without revealing what happens.
If you want to be surprised by the ending, don't read this review.
Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and Skylar (Talia Ryder) are two teenaged
cousins who live in rural Pennsylvania.
They go to the same school, and work at the same store as cashiers.
We first meet Autumn as she plays guitar and sings in a school
talent show (the other acts are just as amateurish). Her original song,
rudely interrupted by catcall, is something about a boyfriend who doesn't
treat her right. Afterwards, Autumn is with her family at a fast food
restaurant, where her Dad refuses to tell her she did well.
He says something about how hard it is to compliment someone who
rarely speaks. So we get the
impression that he thinks she's got an attitude.
Later, at home, Mom just seems harried and exhausted.
Dad showers affection on the dog, but not anybody else.
Autumn goes to her room and drives a safety pin through her nose as
a nostril piercing.
But Writer/Director Eliza Hittman quickly leaves the family
dynamics, unresolved as they are, and carries us immediately to a Women's
Clinic the next day, where Autumn tests positively.
Yes, she's pregnant. She
doesn't really react emotionally to this significant news.
But she doesn't tell anyone in her family, either.
We see (and hear) the sonogram along with her, as they joyfully
inform her she's eight weeks along. She
looks online at home “remedies,” and manages, with difficulty, to
swallow a bunch of vitamin C pills, which of course doesn't have the
desired effect. When she
returns to the Clinic, they show her an anti-abortion video, completely
with photographs of fetuses and explanations about their development.
She can no longer hide her condition from Skylar, at the next cash
register, when Autumn suddenly runs to the bathroom to throw up.
Skylar, at least, is supportive.
Since she doesn't inquire about the relationship that led up to
this situation, the viewers don't learn anything about that, either.
All we know is that there is no guy around.
Through internet research, Autumn and Skylar discover that in
Pennsylvania, parental consent is required for minors. But not in New
York. So, they decide to hop
on the bus to New York City together, without much money, and no
The first clinic informs Autumn that she's actually 18 weeks along,
not 10, and therefore in the 2nd trimester, which means they'll
have to refer her to a clinic in Manhattan.
This throws the girls a curve, because they don't have money for a
hotel, so they wind up wandering around by themselves, lugging a suitcase.
Subways and station lobbies. All-night
arcades. They'd met a young
man on the bus, who gave them his number, so when they run out of money
they text him. He seems to be
interested in taking Skylar downtown to a live music club, but Skylar
doesn't want to abandon Autumn. The
clinic in Manhattan, after a required session with a counselor filling out
a personal questionnaire (see title) informs her it's a two-day procedure,
which means another night of wandering, but this time with no money at
all, because Autumn needed to pay the clinic what she had (and presumably
work out a plan to pay the rest). Thankfully,
for them, the young man “loans” them money for the bus ticket back
home, though he has to go to an ATM, and we wonder how nefarious his
intentions might be. At the
clinic, they keep asking her if she's sure, and by this time the viewer
has identified enough with her to wonder the same thing.
This is a raw, unvarnished, and yes, clinical treament of an
explosive emotional subject. The
fact that it doesn't devolve into histrionics (ironic pun intended) makes
the effect all the more stark and vivid.
This feels real. And
it's impossible to watch without absorbing the incredibly quiet impact.