Graeme Robertson/ Fan Carpet
4 1/2 Stars
It’s hardly the most original statement in the world to say that “life is hard”. With bills to pay, illnesses to fight and families to deal with, life can sometimes feel like a never-ending struggle that only seems to get tougher with each passing moment. This brings me to the subject of today’s review, the critically acclaimed Canadian drama Never Steady, Never Still, a film that captures the daily struggles in a manner that’s bound to leave viewers deeply moved.
In rural Canada, a mother struggles in her battle with Parkinson’s disease, while at the same time her son struggles to come to terms with his sexual orientation while working in the tough environment of the Alberta Oil Fields.
The film boasts two outstanding performances from Shirley Henderson and Theodore Pellerin as a mother and son struggling to come to terms with lives that become increasingly difficult with each passing day.
Henderson as the Parkinson’s stricken Judy is especially moving with the actresses’ careful and intensely physical performance managing to perfectly portray the daily struggles that such a cruel disease can afflict on someone, with her every scene often a difficult and often painful watch, with the way in which Henderson carries herself and her soft voice making the character feel incredibly fragile. It’s a simply remarkable performance that is bound to leave more than few viewers moved by the time the credits roll.
Pellerin more than matches his co-star in capturing a different kind of personal struggle, with the actor’s subtle performance as Jamie managing to quietly suggest the internal battle raging within, with him managing to drop subtle hints to his characters hidden desires with the way he looks almost longingly at his male friend, or his building anger whenever one of his co-workers makes a suggestive and homophobic remark.
The cinematography of the film is also exemplary, with the film-makers opting for a low key approach that relies heavily on handheld camera work, giving the film a gritty and realistic look to it while also bringing out the haunting beauty in the film’s snow-covered scenery.
The film has a rather sombre atmosphere, however, I would argue that this works in the film’s favour, allowing it to portray, what I feel, is an honest portrait of the difficult lives that these people have to endure in this quiet and distant environment.
The film moves along at a sedate and slow pace which works to the film’s advantage and adds to its realistic quality. Life isn’t always a fast-paced adventure filled with fun and excitement, a lot of it is a hard struggle to just get to the end of another day and the film captures this struggle perfectly, with the scenes of Judy struggling about her day often being difficult to watch. I’ll admit that I had to look away at some of these scenes and they did leave a rather poignant impression on me.
However, the film is not all doom and gloom and there are a few moments of light amidst the darkness, such as the short moments of Judy attending a support group for those suffering from Parkinson’s, with these moments often having great moments of pathos and humour, especially when Judy tells a moving story about how she met her husband. It’s these small moments that offer some much-needed relief from the more sombre moments and save the film from being a totally bleak experience.
With a pair of amazing performances, especially from Shirley Henderson who gives us one of the most moving performances of the year, and a slow-burning low key approach that allows us to fully immerse ourselves in the characters difficult lives, Never Steady, Never Still is a difficult, but ultimately brilliant film. Give this one a watch if you’re in the mood for an honest portrayal of the struggles that life throws at us.