Teen abortion drama ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ tops Independent Spirit noms

Sidney Flanigan in "Never Rarely Sometimes Always"
Sidney Flanigan in the teen abortion drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always.”
(Focus Features / Associated Press)

The teen abortion drama “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” landed a leading seven nominations, Chadwick Boseman was posthumously nominated and women dominated the director category in the Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations announced Tuesday.

The 36th Spirit Awards, like most awards shows during the pandemic, are adjusting to the difficult circumstances. Tuesday’s nominees were announced virtually, with taped messages from Olivia Wilde, Laverne Cox and Barry Jenkins — who was joined by his dog, Chauncey Wang-Jenkins.

The awards, usually held in a massive tent on Santa Monica Beach the day before the Oscars, have been postponed to a primetime broadcast on IFC on April 22, three days before the Academy Awards.


“2020 was obviously hell on earth, but one glorious lifeline these past few months has been the ability to watch so many great films and shows,” said Josh Welsh, president of Film Independent, in the presentation streamed on YouTube.

Eliza Hittman’s “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” a Pennsylvania’s teen’s odyssey in getting an abortion, racked up nominations for feature film, director and female lead for Sidney Flanigan. It was followed closely by Lee Isaac Chung’s Korean immigrant family drama “Minari,” with six nominations including feature film, director, male lead for Steven Yeun and supporting nods for Yeri Han and Yuh-jung Youn. Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” starring Frances McDormand, scored five nods, including feature, director and female lead for McDormand.

The other nominees for best feature were Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow” (also up for director and supporting male for Orion Lee) and George C. Wolfe’s adaptation of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Viola Davis and Boseman, the two stars of “Ma Rainey,” were also nominated, as was Glynn Turman.

Those five films have been regularly celebrated in a pandemic-marred awards season that has accelerated lately with the American Film Institute’s picks for the best 10 films of 2020 and the National Board Review nominations, coming later Tuesday. “Nomadland” took top honors at the Gotham Awards earlier this month.

Five television categories will be added to the 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards, which traditionally honor the best in independent cinema.

Sept. 29, 2020

At the Spirits, nominees are limited to films made for less than $22.5 million. Last year, Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” won best feature, while Adam Sandler (“Uncut Gems”) and Renée Zellweger (“Judy”) took the top acting awards. This year, Netflix led all studios with 16 nominations.


Four out of five nominees for directing were women: Reichardt, Zhao, Hittman and Emerald Fennell (for “Promising Young Woman”). Overall, 42% of nominees were women and 37% were people of color.

Carey Mulligan, star of Fennell’s revenge drama, was among the nominees for female lead, along with Davis, Flanigan, McDormand and Nicole Beharie (“Miss Juneteenth”). In the male lead category, Yeun and Boseman were joined by Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”), Adarsh Gourav (“The White Tiger”) and Rob Morgan (“Bull”).

From ‘Uncut Gems’ to ‘The Farewell,’ here’s the complete list of winners of Film Independent’s Spirit awards.

Feb. 8, 2020

The Spirits’ Robert Altman Award, an honor for a film’s ensemble, will go to Regina King’s feature film directorial debut, “One Night in Miami ...,” a fictional account of a 1960s meeting of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown.

The nominees for documentary are “Collective,” “Crip Camp,” “Dick Johnson Is Dead,” “Time” and “The Mole Agent.” Up for international film are “Bacurau,” “The Disciple,” “Night of the Kings,” “Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time” and “Quo Vadis, Aida?”