Title: Never Steady, Never Still
Director: Kathleen Hepburn
Starring: Shirley Henderson, Théodore Pellerin, Mary Galloway
Runtime: 112 mins
What It Is: Judy is a mother dealing with Parkinson’s disease for years. Her son, Jamie, is an eighteen-year-old oil field worker figuring out his own sexuality and identity. After a tragedy brings them closer, they attempt to develop a deeper understanding for one another.
What We Think: Comparing struggles is an act performed by defeatists. In Kathleen Hepburn’s debut feature-length, the exploration of similar themes, of suffering and loss, is astonishingly poignant. I don’t think I’ve seen a story so bleak be presented this beautifully in such a long time. Everything in this film works together in harmony. Hepburn’s voice as a storyteller shines through in every scene, showing a penchant for realism but also a flair for dramatic visuals. Norm Li’s cinematography captures a striking balance between raw, unadorned, matter-of-fact presentation and warm emotionality. This is especially impressive when the scenes are deliberately understated and quiet. Among these quiet moments, we get some truly effective and incredibly acted scenes that all seem to bleed into one another. One of these tiny scenes features Shirley Henderson’s Parkinson’s-stricken Judy struggling to put on a seatbelt, and that in itself is compelling. Henderson’s performance throughout this is impeccable, featuring so much nuance that it’s strange to think she’s putting on a performance. Intermittently, these quiet moments are overlaid with little monologues – ones by Judy, and ones by Jamie. These monologues consist of personal tragedies that mirror ones they continuously confront. Sometimes, they illustrate their fears, their dreams, and their complex ruminations. And overall, these elements complete a collage of misery and adversity. You never quite find a solution to a single one of the (many) problems presented in the story, but it instead simply suggests that you cope. It’s ironic that it’s one of the more uplifting takeaways from an altar devoted to melancholy. Yes, comparing struggles is futile and pointless, but it’s also vital that you observe every single one. This film, theoretically, is poetry.
Our Grade: A, This film is undeniably beautiful. Through the presentation of its ambiguous and meditative story, you get to feel a catharsis that you don’t get to have very often from a movie. (Reviewer’s note: This is also a hard film for this guy to watch, but I’m very glad that I did.)