Review: Sometimes Always Never (12A ), 91 minutes, City Screen, York, and Vue Cinemas, York

SOMETIMES Always Never is so named after the dress-code tip of a tailor to his grandson on which suit jacket buttons, from top to bottom, he should do up.

This detail is typical of this quirky/strange, very English, yet German Expressionist comedy melodrama. Penned by Frank Cottrell Boyce from the short story Triple Word Score, it is brought to the screen with subtle shifts, emotional clout and Seventies nostalgia by artful debutant film director Carl Hunter, who calls profitably on North Yorkshire locations and the facilities of Bubwith’s Highfield Grange Studios, by the way.

The tailor is Alan, a dapper role with a Scouse accent for Bill Nighy. Now in his enervated sixties, he heads a family very proficient in playing Scrabble but struggling to communicate with each other.

In a spin on the story of the prodigal son, his elder son Michael has long been missing since a row over a Scrabble score when he was in his late teens. Younger son (Sam Riley) is made to feel never better than second best, but Alan will never give up on his deluded search, nor on trying to make everything better, even if insensitivity and hurt are his middle names.

Tim McInnerny and Jenny Agutter add to the terrific performances as a couple with a lost son of their own. Words may often fail Alan’s family, but Hunter articulates suffering and redemption with memorable originality and unpredictability. Wes Anderson and Bill Forsyth devotees will love it.

Charles Hutchinson