Bill Nighy Scrabble drama suffers from too much eccentricity

Films inspired by board games have a checkered history. Index, based on Cluedo, came with high-camp shots but failed nonetheless, while Battleship stank – and sank. Ridley Scott’s Monopoly movie, announced in 2008, still hasn’t gone “Go,” and there will have been some disappointment for any gaming fanatic hoping to be taken care of by. Tornado and Fall.

Perhaps the box office jinx board game is what led the creators of a new Scrabble-focused comedy-drama to ditch their original title, “Triple Word Score,” in favor of the harder-to-remember. Sometimes Always Never. In one of those scenes that explain the title, we learn that this one refers to the three buttons on a costume, and when (if any) they should be closed. Alan (Bill Nighy) is the advising tailor, although his lifelong passion is Scrabble. He’ll even pretend to be inexperienced when playing against strangers, casually suggesting a hesitation over the outcome, then stripping his opponents as if he’s Paul Newman in the game. the scammer. It could serve as a metaphor for Nighy’s own acting style. He’s there, awkwardly desperate, usually clad in a cardigan or tie, and before you know it he’s pulled off an emotional sleight of hand.

Alan and his adult son Peter (Sam Riley) are on their way to the morgue where they must identify a body that may be Peter’s brother Michael, who has been missing since he got out of a game of Scrabble at home years earlier. The film, which in all other respects claims to be light and wacky, never quite gets over that gruesome starting point, nor the scene in which Alan reacts with unseemly liveliness to the news that it wasn’t Michael who got it. been found after all. Another couple, who came to see if it’s their boy on the slab, sit down just a few feet away.

From there, the image takes a winding course. Alan moves in with Peter and his wife Sue (Alice Lowe) and shares a bunk bed with Jack (Louis Healy), the teenage grandson addicted to computer games. Alan’s sartorial influence makes the boy a hit with Rachel (Ella-Grace Gregoire), the girl at the bus stop. Meanwhile, Alan becomes convinced that an anonymous online Scrabble opponent is in fact Michael. He goes looking for him and Peter follows him. On the way, Peter meets a waitress who likes the word “soap” and bumps into Alexei Sayle in a shipyard. Well why not?

Sentence by sentence, Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s script is often delightful. Take Alan’s jerky explanation for why he doesn’t drive at night: “A-roads in the dark. Approach. Full beam. Nightmarish. ”But the script’s ideas don’t quite convincingly translate into themes. Peter remembers with sorrow how his childhood was littered with cheap versions of popular toys – not Subbuteo but Chad Valley Big League, not Scrabble but a scam with fragile cardboard tiles. The film isn’t even halfway there when Alan clarifies the subtext: “You didn’t have a mother either, you had a father. A bad substitute there- The moral is this: make the most of what you have rather than worrying about what you lack. The question is whether Alan will take his own advice and appreciate the son who is right in front of him at the instead of endlessly yearning for the one who’s gone.

Director Carl Hunter, former bassist for Liverpudlian The Farm, trusts eccentricity a little too much to bring the film to fruition. Most of the decors are painted in Aki Kaurismäki’s dismal colors: a drab hotel bar is decorated in lime with unflattering puddles of light, while the magenta cabinets in Peter’s kitchen are offset by turquoise walls and pistachio. The ostensibly contrived driving scenes have a goofy feel, CBeebies, and there’s also an animated boat sinking at sea. On this evidence, Hunter auditions to be the cut-price Briton Wes Anderson. Even this coveted filmmaker, however, is guilty of a certain lack of air, and Hunter should instead be playing with his own strength. He coaxes the good work of Jenny Agutter as the mother of the other missing son, and of Healy and Gregoire, who are fresh and naturalistic like the teenage lovebirds. If his tracking isn’t so demanding on the eccentricity, it might not seem like such a trivial pursuit.

Sometimes Always Never (12A)
Director: Carl Hunter

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