‘Never’: Film Review

Indican Pictures
Heartfelt, but drastically underdeveloped.

Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda co-stars with Zachary Booth in this low-budget relationship drama.

Seattle’s indie music scene provides the backdrop for Brett Allen Smith’s debut feature Never, a slight drama about a doomed relationship between two emotionally fragile twenty-somethings. Despite a certain unpretentious charm, the film’s lack of a distinct perspective or any ascertainable style means it will likely struggle for notice theatrically, although it could find a warmer reception on digital platforms.

Recently relocated from Oakland, Denim (Zachary Booth) joins a graphic design firm and begins settling into his new life after fleeing a bad breakup. It’s not long, however, before he’s dating co-worker Meghan (Nicole Gale Anderson), another young designer. At the same time, he’s drawn to her acquaintance Nikki (Zelda Williams), a gay singer-songwriter trying to make her mark in Seattle’s competitive music industry. After recording an unreleased EP of confessional songs set against her plaintive piano compositions, Nikki is having a hard time finding faith with gigging her way toward creative recognition, particularly while holding down a day job as an overworked barista.

Her recent split with former girlfriend Rachel (Angela Sarafyan) helps her bond with Denim over romantic disappointments, especially since he’s so supportive of her musical pursuits. As they continue spending more time together, their relationship develops organically, if rather unconventionally. But their closeness becomes an issue for Meghan at the same time that Nikki and Denim are both questioning the boundaries of their own relationship. Jealousies and misunderstandings threaten to provoke a crisis, intensified by the inherent conflict in their sexual orientations.

Writer-director Smith chooses a tightly confined set of characters and situations to define the plot, but even within this limited scope, it’s not entirely clear why Denim would become so fixated on Nikki, beyond understandable platonic admiration. For her part, Nikki is a bit of a wreck, undone by her breakup with Rachel and a foundering music career. Their emotionally charged mutual confusion leads to recurring, ridiculously earnest discussions and more than a few scenes of weeping and wailing, but not much plot development. If similarities to mumblecore dramedies seem appropriate, be advised that by comparison, that subgenre is way more involving than Never will ever be.

Williams excels at the type of histrionics that Smith’s script foists upon her, but spends even more time rehearsing and performing awkwardly introspective songs alone in her bedroom or before assorted disinterested hipster audiences. Booth’s performance is so understated that he essentially becomes interchangeable with any other actor of his age and talkative inclination.

Production quality is up to low-budget standards, making attractive use of Seattle locations.

Distributor: Indican Pictures
Production companies: Outlaw Productions, Ink!/Oil/Muse (circle one) Productions
Cast: Zelda Williams, Zachary Booth, Nicole Gale Anderson, Angela Sarafyan
Director-writer: Brett Allen Smith
Producers: Brett Allen Smith, Andrew Schmidt, Cherie Saulter
Executive producers: Deborah Jelin Newmyer, T.S. Nowlin, Rodney Smith
Directors of photography: Alexander Sablow, Benjamin Verhulst
Production designer: Caitlin Nicole Williams
Costume designer:  Keely Crum
Editor: Bradley Maurer
Music: Nora Kirkpatrick
Casting director: Lindsey Weissmueller

Not rated, 82 minutes