Never Rarely Sometimes Always director Eliza Hittman expects her film to land on VOD platforms
Sundance seems like it took place several years ago, let alone at the start of 2020, but the festival saw Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always walk away with the Dramatic Special Jury Award, before following that up with a Silver Bear win at Berlinale. Much of that buzz was affected due to it unfortunately arriving in cinemas on March 13 - just as cinemas were starting to close their doors in the US.
A UK release date was yet to be announced but there was some hope it might transfer over to VOD as per other NBCUniversal-owned titles like The Invisible Man, Emma., and The Hunt. Speaking in an interview with Film Comment, Hittman said that an early digital release originally "wasn’t our strategy at all" but events of the past week could mean Focus Pictures believe that "the only way to capitalise on the momentum is to do something like this paid VOD platform with Universal."
Hittman was reflecting on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected her film and she remains unsure about what lies ahead: "We haven’t all agreed upon a strategy moving forward, because the landscape is so unknowable. I think Focus is concerned that if they put the release on hold, and try to release over the summer, will theatres be open is a question."
There is also some doubt about how Never Rarely Sometimes Always will be received on VOD as HIttman believes "it’s not that kind of film, that draws [VOD viewers]—it’s not cast-driven. I don’t know if it’s the kind of movie people want to watch in this vulnerable moment."
Her last comment likely alludes to the idea that viewers may prefer escapism in the films they pay for at the moment, rather than Hittman’s gritty neo-realist style that addresses serious topics like abortion rights and issues with the American healthcare systems.
Reviews for Never Rarely Sometimes Always have been very strong, with the current Rotten Tomatoes score standing at 99% based on 77 critics. Combined with the prestigious festival award wins the film stood a chance of crossing over and attracting some late-year award season shine, but right now they seem focussed on recovering whatever they can from an unpredictable situation.