"Never Rarely Sometimes Always," an agonizing film about a teenage girl who travels from her home in rural Pennsylvania to New York City to have an abortion procedure without parental consent, is exactly the kind of project you'd expect to be lauded by the progressive award show elites — and so it has.
Since its premiere at last year's Sundance Film Festival, the film has been celebrated and awarded by numerous film critic groups, including the Indie Spirit Awards, New York Film Critics Circle, and the National Board of Review. Now the film is reportedly seen as a possible Oscar contender.
But apparently not every Oscar voter is agog over the heart-wrenching flick.
What are the details?
Kieth Merrill, a pro-life member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — yes, apparently those exist — made headlines last week when he offered up a blistering response to a publicist who reached out to see if he had seen the film yet.
Merrill, who is a Mormon and a longtime director and producer known for "The Great American Cowboy" and "Amazon," candidly told the publicist via email that he has no intentions of watching the film. Here was his response, according to Variety:
I received the screener but as a Christian, the father of 8 children and 39 grandchildren. AND pro-life advocate, I have ZERO interest in watching a woman cross state lines so someone can murder her unborn child.
75,000,000 of us recognize abortion for the atrocity it is. There is nothing heroic about a mother working so hard to kill her child.
Think about it!
When the film's director, Eliza Hittman, caught wind of Merrill's response, she was infuriated. She reportedly posted a screenshot of the email to her Instagram, which has since been deleted, and blasted the the Academy for being "monopolized by an old white puritanical male guard."
"I have dedicated the last year of my life to promoting ["Never Rarely Sometimes Always"] and doing teen talks/outreach with [Planned Parenthood]," she wrote in the post's caption. "As we reach the homestretch of awards season, I am very aware that the film is still on the edges of being a true contender."
"This email came in last night and was a harsh reminder that the Academy is still so painfully monopolized by an old white puritanical male guard. I wonder how many other voters out there won't watch the film," she added, including the hashtag, "#oscarssopuritanical."
What else did Merrill have to say?
In response to Variety's requests for comment, Merrill went into greater detail about his pro-life views, as well as his stance against watching the movie.
"Her film is an expression of who she is. My absence of interest in watching her film is an expression of who I am," he wrote to the magazine. "We are equally valid in our choices, what we do, and how we choose to live our lives."
In response to the charge that he is a member of the "old white puritanical male guard," Merrill wrote, "Wow! Ok Eliza, I am 'old.' You got that right. I have been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for 46 years."
He added: "'Puritanical?' I go to church, pray to God and believe in Jesus Christ. I embrace traditional values and believe in moral agency. I try to love my neighbors — hard as that is sometimes. Does that make me 'puritanical'? Maybe, but if you knew me, you would need to take away the adjectives that give the word the negative connotation you intended. I am not prudish, austere, stuffy, stiff, rigid, narrow-minded, bigoted or fanatical. I am in fact, quite the opposite."
The 2021 Oscar ceremony has been set for April 25. Voting for Oscar nomination ends March 10.