Dapper gamester Alan, commands the scrabble board and most conversations. Though he's never short of something to say, that doesn't make him a great communicator. His relationship with his son Peter has been clouded by the disappearance of older son Michael and Peter's own feelings of having come off second best.
The confident visual direction with pastel and retro motifs combine with an erudite humorous script to bring a light touch to the film that belies its depth. The quality cast takes its cue from lead Bill Nighey who pitches his performance and accent just right. Set pieces with generation role reversal and awkward situations demonstrate the small resentments that map lifelong relationships.
Sometimes surreal, always engaging, never stuck for words.
I had no preconceptions whatsoever about SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER, except that BILL NIGHY was involved. That's always a good starting point in any film, but this one is altogether something else and you really have to see it to believe it.
Visually time-locked in two different eras, the now and then, it can be summed up as follows: one man's journey to find his missing son. But it's far more layered than that. Two generations of his family are also very much a part of the story (whether they like it or not) and the whole thing has a somewhere-in-the-northwest-of-England feel to it - as does the full-on ALEXEI SAYLE cameo, the one slightly jarring moment when I became aware of the acting.
Scrabble wordplay, social media, professional tailor-made suits and, of all things, a labelling 'gun' all feature in a plot that keeps you guessing until the end, an unexpected resolution of sorts. Despite a streak of melancholy that's never far from the surface, there's still plenty of humour in the way Alan (BILL NIGHY) and Peter, his younger son (SAM RILEY) banter with each other, particularly during their stay at a gloomy hotel and a planned visit to a mortuary (the father-son relationship has been this way for years following the disappearance of his elder brother, Michael, after a fraught game of, yes, Scrabble). The fact that there's a couple (JENNY AGUTTER & TIM McINNERNY) on a similar mission to theirs only adds to the black-humoured intensity of the evening and, even more so, the next morning.
By this point you'll be getting used to the deliberate back-projection (the scenes when Michael is driving Alan in his car, again, a model belonging to another era), the word captions and black & white clips illustrating Alan's dubious anecdotes or shared memories with his family. The well-observed interplay with his teenage grandson Jack also adds to the film's eccentric charm, thankfully choosing not to exploit the usual clichés - a lazier script in lazier hands, however, would not have been so thoughtful. But once tuned-in to all this, SOMETIMES ALWAYS NEVER is well worth your time and effort.
Film of the year (in a number of most unusual ways).