Glasgow Film Festival Review: ‘Never Steady, Never Still’

The directorial debut from screenwriter Kathleen HepburnNever Steady, Never Still‘ is a cold isolated tale of a woman with Parkinson’s disease and the lives of her closest family members.

The camera captures the remote environment of Fort Saint James, British Columbia – the cold heart of rural Canada. Hepburn captures the slow yet certain inevitabilities of the everyday. We see the swelling water of the lake, the turning of the oil field machinery, the road passing by the rear windows of the heavy duty vehicles. All of it is unavoidable and harsh.

The writing is at its best when the characters address the audience in a narration. The voiceover seems a lot more personal. We get context for the narrative this way, each anecdote crushing, like each of the leads, is revealing a something untold to you in secret. The rest of the dialogue and the pace of the film focuses on each moment of time in the form of dramatic realism.

We see the physical condition of Judy (Shirley Henderson), she inhabits domestic spaces with a determined approach, and communicates with her son and the other minor characters –her next door neighbour, the community of people at the support group, the care workers that drop in on the house. Henderson brings about a performance that has clarity, she portrays the stoicism of Judy with a level of matureness. She indicates to the audience that she is driven and strong-willed under a tragic set of circumstances.

Her 18 year old son Jamie (Theodore Pellerin) is based a short distance away working a labour intensive job on an oil field. He also explores his sexuality for the first time. He faces devastation with the prospect of failing in his job, the death of his father, and his mothers continued ill-health. This pushes him to the mental limit in a geographically isolated area. Pellerin plays the emotional teenager with conviction.

‘Never Steady, Never Still’ is a version of a short film of the same title. The ideas and presentation of the narrative of the feature more suit the short form. The characters continue on their journeys, though there is a lack of structure. That isn’t to say that each of the sections doesn’t work in their own right, it is just the flow of the film which is not fully developed.

The audio visual composure of each scene is fantastic. The performances tell us a truth about the humanity of the characters. The realness of the world is picked up through mostly handheld camera. The landscapes frame Judy and Jamie in a despondent world. The most poignant thing is that they have few people with whom to console their unique emotional states.

The subject matter is explored in great detail, and the technical aspects of the filmmaking are masterful. The music by Ben Fox accompanies the previously mentioned landscapes with flair. The performance and writing is intelligent and tender. The film’s runtime of 112 minutes though, is overlong, as the short form piece is stretched into a feature. The tone and narrative progression is underdeveloped, which is unfortunate for an otherwise thoughtful expression of grief.

Zach Roddis | [rating=3]

Drama | Canada, 2017 | 15|Glasgow Film Festival |Dir.Kathleen Hepburn | Shirley Henderson, Théodore Pellerin, Mary Galloway

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