February 28, 2018

Never Steady, Never Still feels lived-in, rich and achingly real

Radheyan Simonpillai/ Now Toronto

Kathleen Hepburn’s family drama – nominated for several Canadian Screen Awards – hits hard

NEVER STEADY, NEVER STILL (Kathleen Hepburn). 112 minutes. Opens Friday (March 2). See listings. Rating: NNNN

Small, exquisite moments of searching for comfort in dire circumstances are what hit hard in Never Steady, Never Still, Kathleen Hepburn’s assured feature debut about a family coping with tragedy while living in isolation.

The film is nominated for eight Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Shirley Henderson’s heart-wrenching performance. She plays Judy, a mother living with Parkinson’s disease, fighting to function independently after her husband’s death.

Her son Jamie (Théodore Pellerin, also terrific and curiously not nominated) struggles with his sexuality and identity while working in an Alberta oil field, a brutal environment where performing masculinity has its own debilitating effect.

Their stories run separate, complementing each other in a way that’s a tad on the nose. But Hepburn makes it work because her focus is more intimate than the schematics. She nurtures the performances in their specific environments, so each character and their every exchange feels lived-in, rich and achingly beautiful in those brief moments where they rise above the misery.

Wait for the mumbling, awkward sexual encounter in a pickup truck, a boldly provocative moment that isn’t a resolution but still feels cathartic.

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