In Sometimes, director Priyadarshan attempts to tackle the dismal, tragic subject of AIDS—which claimed more than 62,000 lives in India in 2016, making it the third largest HIV epidemic in the world. While Priyadarshan’s intentions were noble, his Netflix film plays out like a prolonged public service announcement rather than a riveting drama.
Viewers follow seven people in Bangalore as they wait inside a test center to receive their results for the ELISA Test—which is used to test if someone has contracted AIDS—as well as one angry technician, Deepa (Sriya Reddy) who appears to be tragically impoverished yet painfully inept at her job. To avoid the tension of waiting, the group members bribe Deepa to learn their results sooner. As they wait, viewers learn why each person may have contracted AIDS.
At the end of the film, the creators share a message on-screen that explains they made the film to raise awareness about the disease, which they say is the most effective way to halt the spread of it. This intention is incredibly obvious throughout the film, which uses straight-to-the-point, forced dialogue to educate viewers about HIV, the myriad ways it can be contracted, how people can get tested, and the stigma that still surrounds the disease that hinders at-risk folks from going to a test center.
The pacing of the film also drags and feels exactly the same as waiting at a doctor’s office all afternoon. The first meaningful conversation doesn’t take place until 30 minutes into the film and viewers don’t learn much about the supporting cast until at least one hour in. It’s filled with dramatic music when nothing particularly dramatic is going on. The plot takes an unexpected turn in the last half hour, which will keep watchers glued to the screen, but then it ends quickly with no real resolution.
Most of the acting is clunky. Deepa remains a grating, angry protagonist for the entire film and Bala Murugan (Ashok Selvan)—the other main character who drives the plot—seems simply like an annoying person you’d meet in a waiting room who asks too many personal questions. The supporting cast—Raghavan (M.S. Bhaskar), ACP Karunakaran (Shanmugarajan), Vivek (Varun Dhawan), and Sheila George (Anjali Rao)—are all one-dimensional and forgettable stereotypes.
Despite all of these shortcomings, Sometimes successfully lays out the frustrating bureaucracy behind test centers in India and showcases the intense stigma felt by folks who find themselves at-risk of AIDS. Perhaps the film lacks a truly interesting plot because it mimics real life so well. In the final half hour of the film, when everyone hopes and prays that they are AIDS-free, viewers can feel the anxiety felt by each and every one of the seven characters.
Sometimes would make an excellent film to watch in health class at school—but viewers would be better off watching something else if they’re looking for a gripping drama that will hold their attention.
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