Tag Archives: Eliza Hittman

Sugar and Spice

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

by George Wolf

With her 2013 debut It Felt Like Love, Eliza Hittman brought a refreshing honesty to the teen drama. Zeroing in on the summer days when two girls began their sexual lives, the film was an exciting introduction to a writer/director with a quietly defiant voice.

At its core, Never Rarely Sometimes Always could be seen as Hittman’s kindred sequel to her first feature, as two friends navigate a cold, sometimes cruel world that lies just beyond the hopeful romanticism of first love.

Autumn (Sidney Flanagan) is a talented 17 year-old in Pennsylvania whose crude father berates her for an ever-present foul mood. She’s worried, and when a visit to her local health clinic confirms her fears, Autumn confides only in her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) as she weighs her options.

In Autumn’s home state, those options are severely limited, so the girls scrape together as much money as they can and hop a bus to New York, encountering more hard realities along the way.

The over-reliance on metaphor that sometimes hampered It Felt Like Love now feels like that awkward school picture from just a few grades back. NRSA shows Hittman in full command of her blunt truth-telling, demanding we accept this reality of women fighting to control their own bodies amid constant waves of marginalization.

Flanagan, a New York musician making her acting debut, is simply a revelation. There isn’t a hint of angsty teen caricature in Autumn’s dour moodiness, just a beaten down worldview born from all that is revealed in her beautifully brutal interview at the New York clinic.

As an off-camera social worker asks Autumn to give the titular response to a series of questions, Hittman holds tight on Flanagan and she never shrinks from the moment. It’s a devastatingly long take full of hushed experience that may easily shake you.

Just three films in, Hittman has established herself as a filmmaker of few words, intimate details and searing perspective. NRSW is a sensitive portrayal of female friendship and courage, equal parts understated and confrontational as it speaks truths that remain commonly ignored.

Given the subject matter, the film’s PG-13 rating is surprising, but hopeful. This film deserves an audience, much like the conversations it will undoubtedly spark.

Endless Summer


It Felt Like Love

by George Wolf

Writer/director Eliza Hittman makes a startling feature debut with It Felt Like Love, an in-the-moment take on teenage sexuality that’s worth a truckload full of Perks of Being a Wallflowers or Spectacular Nows.

To be fair, Hittman isn’t really interested in that audience. There’s no sweet sentimentality here, or confident, pimple-free teenagers proclaiming their misfit bonafides. Instead, Hittman lets us into the life of a curious young girl entering a summer of yearning and self-deception.   

14 year-old Lila (Gina Piersanti) and her 16 year-old best friend Chiara (Giovanna Salimeni) are Brooklyn girls enjoying the freedom of summer break. Chiara is also enjoying the affection of the latest in a string of boyfriends, and Lila becomes anxious to emulate the sexuality of her experienced friend.

After spotting the college-age Sammy (Ronen Rubinstein) at the beach, Lila begins finding ways to insert herself into Sammy’s world. It is a fixation that leads Lila into some potentially dangerous situations.

Hittman mixes an impressively sparse script with an impressionistic visual style, creating a loose, evocative narrative.Her camera lingers on torsos, limbs and sweaty faces, quietly reinforcing the anxieties of body image, and giving her film an almost tactile immediacy.

Lila and Chiara aren’t prone to speeches that bring sudden moments of clarity, just small moments in a time of life that can often be quietly, achingly desperate. Hittman also creates thoughtful juxtapositions, from young girls using overtly sexist music for a dance routine to the social ripples caused by varying levels of sexual experience among peers.  

Piersanti is fantastic in the lead role, personifying Lila’s confusion over the world and her place in it, while never resorting to showy theatrics that would undercut any authenticity. She’s another young actress to keep an eye on.

Hittman does rely a tad too heavily on symbolism (the sea, carnival rides, an open door), but that remains a small dent in a film that is not only a refreshing look at female adolescence, but a fine introduction to a very promising pair of artists.