Kathleen Hepburn (director)
20 April 2018 (released)
21 April 2018
Set on the shores of Stuart Lake, British Columbia, this is the story of Judy (the splendid Shirley Henderson) who having had Parkinson’s disease for nigh on twenty years, is suddenly forced to face life without her carer husband and deal with a wayward son.
Judy’s daily life is a routine but apart from certain problems manages life with some independence, and no little humour, as we witness at the therapy group she attends where they joke about their conditions in the I-can-say-that way that only they can. Nevertheless, husband Ed (Nicholas Campbell) is her rock, only helping when required and treating her as an equal: when playing cards there’s no prisoners. Son Jamie (Theodore Pellerin) has his own difficulties not least being forced to work at the nearby oil fields, dealing with an alpha male culture of brutality and prejudice, that he doesn’t fit into.
Ed suddenly dies and the family is torn, their bedrock pulled away. Judy now has to manage on her own and rely more on an ever more an unreliable Jamie who is now at odds with the drillers and confused about his own sexuality. Into the flux comes Kaly (Mary Galloway) initially perceived as something of a simpleton, has an insight and fortitude, that quietly and subtly threads into the film.
Never Steady, Never Still is more of a character and family study than an examination of Parkinson’s, as while Judy has the condition she is more or less able to cope with most aspects of her life. It’s the human flaws and confusions that are most interesting.
Kathleen Hepburn’s script is excellent, with an ear for small, everyday talk that gives the film an earthy grounding, and which balances her rather workmanlike direction. The acting is fine but if pushed then Henderson and Galloway steal the honours. Henderson grasps Judy’s character of getting on with life, while Galloway’s Kaly has the quiet intelligence of someone who knows they are underestimated.
It’s a solid debut from Hepburn, though at times it’s a little slow. And while its heart is in the right place and those strings are pulled occasionally it just doesn’t quite fully engage for the duration.