June 28, 2018

Shirley Henderson is extraordinary in challenging Canadian drama ‘Never Steady, Never Still’

LA Times/ 

Bleak but not hopeless, gut-wrenching but not self-pitying, the Canadian drama “Never Steady, Never Still” is a skillful, sensitively wrought portrait of moving forward despite life’s greater setbacks.

Writer-director Kathleen Hepburn takes a mostly quiet, internal, observational approach to some big emotional territory as she follows a pivotal year for a deeply connected mother and son.

Scottish-born actress Shirley Henderson is extraordinary as Judy, a 50ish woman with advanced Parkinson’s disease, who must doggedly fend for herself in rural British Columbia after her devoted husband (Nicholas Campbell) suddenly dies and their floundering 19-year-old son, Jamie (Théodore Pellerin), leaves for a grueling job in the Alberta oil fields.

But it’s as much Jamie’s story as it is Judy’s as Hepburn authentically explores the definitions of masculinity and a young man’s struggle to find his place in an often harsh world. Pellerin brings a wonderfully tender sadness and longing to the alienated, sexually uncertain Jamie. Several of his scenes with Henderson are also quite special.

As for the actress, she disappears into her character’s tormented physicality and Canadian rhythms with a startling credibility reminiscent of Sally Hawkins’ amazing turn as a woman with acute arthritis in last year’s “Maudie.”

Hepburn’s eye for detail and nuance is exceptional, especially as she evocatively captures the extremes of the film’s imposing landscapes.

This is an austere, demanding, deliberately paced picture that will reward the patient.

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‘Never Steady, Never Still’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills