Sometimes Always Never

In Cinemas Now

Family is a four letter word.

Bill Nighy is a tailor who closes up shop to move in with his surly son Peter (Sam Riley), who stormed out of the family home years ago after a particularly heated round of Scrabble, in this comedy-drama.


Directed by

Comedy, Drama, Festival & Independent


Rating: PG Sexual references


The title’s a reference to when, in descending order, the three buttons on a gentleman’s jacket should be undone, something Bill Nighy’s character Alan, a retired tailor, knows all about. Now, the widowed Liverpudlian spends his days honing his Scrabble skills, and seeking his eldest son Michael, who left home as a teenager, following an argument over using “Zo” in a word-game. It’s an obsession that leaves Alan’s younger son, Peter (Sam Riley) feeling second-place in the favourite child stakes.

Director Carl Hunter lends a dialogue-heavy script cinematic verve, channelling Wes Anderson-style visual quirk to the point of distraction. But Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s screenplay is all about the chat, with Alan’s Scrabble prowess standing in stark contrast to his inability to communicate with his remaining, non-prodigal son; now a father himself, with a teenage son, wife (the wonderfully understated Alice Lowe), and a business painting ice-cream vans.

In Nighy (a cross between Peter O’Toole with Paul McCartney’s voice, and a wind-sock in a gale), the witty script leaps to life, in a tour-de-force of darkly downbeat comedic timing; his furtive looks and glances hinting at the sorrow beneath the surface. The supporting cast are fun, replete with eccentrics, most notably Jenny Agutter and Tim McInnerny as a couple Alan fleeces at Scrabble, and a cameo by comedian Alexei Sayle, ranting on a beach.

The idiosyncratic script, direction and style are all very English, riddled with references to 1970s Brit kitsch. As a tale of reconciliation between a father and son struggling to communicate, it’s a charming and funny film, an eccentric exercise, revelling in words (you’ll never say “soap” the same again), centred on a small tale of a family reaching to let go of regrets and ultimately, reconnect.

Screen International


The whimsy, in both script and visuals, can sometimes be grating.

The Guardian


This film is a distinct, articulate pleasure.

FilmInk (Australia)


...sweet without being cloying and quirky without being stupid...

Urban Cinefile


Don't lose sight of what you already have when searching for the elusive dream is the moral of this drama that explores the complex relationship between father and son.

Adelaide Review


Often so self-consciously 'quirky' that you might occasionally want to scream, Sometimes Always Never is an odd, sad character piece that never really comes together, and feels fey and even twee.

Sydney Morning Herald


The appeal of a Bill Nighy character is hard to pin down. While his overall attitude to life is pessimistic, an irresistible desire to look for the joke lurking behind the bad news keeps breaking through and brightening the picture.

NZ Herald (Toby Woollaston)


Sometimes Always Never is a quintessentially British film; a damp slice of seaside village life, often ponderous and offbeat (perhaps to a fault, depending on your tolerance) but curiously endearing.