Never Steady, Never Still
Shot on 35mm and filmed on location in scenic British Columbia, Never Steady, Never Still is the first feature by Kathleen Hepburn and follows the lives of a mother (Shirley Henderson) suffering from Parkinson’s disease and her teenage son (Théodore Pellerin) coming to terms with his sexuality in the aftermath of a family tragedy. Whilst Hepburn’s picture contains moments of tragic beauty throughout, the majority of the film is tediously dull. With no real sense of purpose, scenes meander aimlessly until all focus is lost.
The highlight of Never Steady is undoubtedly Henderson’s performance as the suffering, but fully determined, Judy. Though part of the movie’s intention is to frame her as a sympathetic character, she never comes across as a victim of her disease, but rather as a strong individual who manages to cope in spite of her disability. Unfortunately, however, Hepburn decides to shift the strong focus on Judy to her far less interesting son’s angsty teenage problems where the choices he makes portrays him as unlikeable and awkward, something that makes it hard to sympathise with him like we do his mother.
It’s evident that the director is competent at constructing shots. Characters are often framed in interesting ways and she’s able to capture the beautiful tranquillity of the isolated community in which the story takes place. The issue is that she doesn’t seem sure of when to end these scenes. Far too often, characters will continue conversations without saying anything at all and shots will linger purposelessly past their welcome. This may well be Hepburn attempting to create a sense of verisimilitude and voyeurism within her film, which she does, admittedly, succeed in when the technique is called for. But, for the most part, these empty sequences ultimately stop the drama from going anywhere.
When this technique works, however, Never Steady, Never Still offers a heart-breaking representation of grief and sadness that is left to resonate onscreen. It’s unfortunate, then, that Hepburn is unable to keep the movie on track for it to fulfil the potential that is clearly there.
Never Steady, Never Still is released nationwide on 20th April 2018.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Glasgow Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Never Steady, Never Still here: