Never Steady, Never Still

Never Steady, Never Still
Never Steady, Never Still
Directed by Kathleen Hepburn
Starring Shirley Henderson, Théodore Pellerin, Nicholas Campbell, Mary Galloway, Lorne Cardinal, Jared Abrahamson and Jonathan Whitesell
In UK Cinemas April 20th, 2018

by Bernie C. Byrnes

Never Steady, Never Still is set in the rugged and unforgiving rural north of British Columbia, Canada. Having lived with Parkinson’s disease for almost two decades, Judy (Shirley Henderson) is faced with the heightened challenges of daily life when her husband and caregiver dies of a sudden heart attack on their isolated property on the shores of Stuart Lake. Meanwhile, her teenage son Jamie (Théodore Pellerin), pushed by his father to get a job on the oil fields, is terrified by the idea of filling his shoes at too young an age, and grappling with the daunting task of becoming a man in a world that has no apparent room for weakness.

Personally I have a problem with able-bodied actors playing other-abled characters. Don’t get me wrong, Shirley Henderson’s performance is superb in this film, but I object to it on principle. If you’re making a film about someone living with a disease then cast an actor who has it.

Never Steady, Never Still claims to be a tender and heartbreaking story of a physically disabled mother and discontent son – each alienated from their world and struggling to manage in the face of grief, guilt and chronic disease.

As a debut film it shows promise but whilst I usually agree with the adage ‘write what you know’, here, it does Kathleen Hepburn few favours. Much of the film is taken up by painfully intimate voyeurism of Judy as she struggles to walk, dress, undress, make tea etc. etc. I learned little about Parkinson’s disease, or what it’s like to live with a disabled mother.

Despite that, there is a good film inside this one trying to get out. The story of Jamie (beautifully performed by Théodore Pellen) is a compelling one. Struggling with growing up on the edge of nowhere, this narrative has touches of true brilliance. If the film were just about him it would be far better. Jamie’s struggle is less clear than his mother’s but it is also more painful in its murkiness. He is simply lost – searching for a lifeline – trying desperately to find his way in the shadow of his father and the uncertainty of his future.

Beautifully acted, gorgeously filmed, relentlessly depressing.


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