In Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Talia Ryder plays Skylar, the cousin whom Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) turns to when she is faced with an unwanted pregnancy in their rural Pennsylvania hometown. Realizing that Autumn will need to travel to New York City to access necessary medical care, Skylar travels with her, providing her friend the necessary support and protection. Alone in New York City with little money or understanding of this chaotic urban world, the two form a powerful connection that ultimately transforms both of them. “The whole movie is about the bond between these two women,” explains Hittman. “The connection you see is not so much about the characters as about the bond that developed between Sidney and Talia.” Both from Buffalo, New York, the two women became fast friends and collaborators, a rapport that noticeably registered on screen. For Rolling Stone, “the friendship at the heart of this film, as indelibly portrayed by two brilliant young actresses—Flanigan is a wonder to behold, while Ryder nails just the right notes of supportive and warmly sympathetic—is a thing of beauty.
We spoke with Ryder about how she found her character, how she connected with Flanigan, and why the story is so important to her.
Who is Skylar?
She is a girl who is wise beyond her years. She is truly savvy and independent, but also fiercely loyal and protective of her cousin Sidney. Through the film, she receives a lot of unwanted male attention and grapples with how to deal with the power that attention gives her. A boy she meets, Jasper (Théodore Pellerin), becomes very attracted to her and she must decide how to react to him.
What was it about her that appealed to you?
Her savviness really inspired me. It was something that I really respected about her. She was able to figure out their tough situation in order to protect her cousin, while also dealing with what she has to experience—which is sadly very heroic.
Did you relate to Skylar’s situation personally?
I have a younger sister who is 14, as well as a little brother who is 11. I feel very protective of my sister and never want her to have to experience some of things that I have had to. I feel that my character feels the same way about her cousin. She will unapologetically do anything in her power to make sure she can keep her cousin safe and happy.
How did you relate to the friendship between Skylar and Autumn?
It is a very beautifully written relationship. The girls have this telepathic form of communication in that they both have an unspoken understanding of the universe. What they are experiencing in the film is beyond words. Eliza’s approach to their relationship is very honest. While they don’t talk or crack jokes or act like best friends all the time, their love for each other runs so deep, they don’t need to demonstrate it.
While they don’t talk or crack jokes or act like best friends all the time, their love for each other runs so deep, they don’t need to demonstrate it.
Since the connection between these two women is at the heart of the film, how did you relate to Sidney?
Eliza’s priority during rehearsal was to make sure that Sidney and I were bonded as people, even more than our characters were. What will transfer to screen is our relationship with each other. Eliza gave us both a journal and had us write three very personal entries in it. Then we took an hour or so to share those answers and learn about each other in a very intimate way. We didn’t share our answers with anyone else, not even Eliza. It is inevitable that you will form a close bond with someone after you share so much about yourself.
Both Skylar and Autumn have to face new, somewhat daunting experiences for the first time. How was it for you and Sidney starring in your first film together?
We were both learning the ropes as we went along. It was so nice to have someone else on set for whom this was a first-time experience as well. Although I’ve acted on stage, it is so different from working on a film. On set, Sidney and I would talk to each other about what was going on. That really helped build our relationship.
You two really were like Autumn and Skylar.
How was it shooting your first feature?
We had to film in a lot of unconventional settings. Port Authority only allowed us to shoot from midnight to 4 am, which was exhausting and a little weird. When we shot on the subway, there was a rule that you can only use handheld cameras. That was a burden for the crew. It was also very cold, because we shot in February and had a lot of exterior scenes.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
I definitely hope that people will be able to empathize more and think before they judge. It is so easy to have opinions about young women without knowing the whole story. I hope the film will allow people to consider things differently.