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TIFF Review: Never Steady, Never Still – “Almost meditative”

A woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease attempts to deal with her worsening condition along with her caregiving husband and discontented son.

 Over the course of the changing seasons on the isolated shores of Stuart Lake, B.C., Judy (Shirley Henderson) attends group therapy sessions as she attempts to deal with her worsening Parkinson’s disease.  She is looked after by her compassionate husband Ed (Nicholas Campbell) who feels a sense of guilt for earning a pension from the mill that may be responsible for his wife’s condition.  Living with the couple is their wayward teenage son Jamie (Théodore Pellerin) who reluctantly goes off to work for an oil drilling company. Matters worsen and Jamie struggles to navigate his passage into adulthood.  With Jamie away at work, Judy hires local girl Kaly (Mary Galloway) to deliver groceries to her home.

There is no melodramatic depiction of Parkinson’s disease which stems from filmmaker Kathleen Hepburn taking inspiration from her own mother being inflicted with the condition.  Shirley Henderson is so convincing that at times it is hard to watch her performance on the screen.  Unlike other family dramas where shouting at each other is daily routine, a more measured approach is taken with a prevailing sense of quiet internal suffering taking place.  Nicholas Campbell is reliable as ever.  Théodore Pellerin and Mary Galloway are sincere in portraying teenagers who are emotionally adrift in the world.

Nature has a big role to play in dwarfing the human presence.  The camera serves as an eye witness looking over the shoulders of the cast as well as through doorways and car windshields.  Shots are not perfectly framed and cinematographer Norm Li makes use of documentary handheld approach.  The utilization of 35 mm film adds a granular quality of the imagery.  The pacing is almost meditative as shots tend to linger and there are no fast cuts between edits.  Kathleen Hepburn does a commendable job of exploring the power of family and the importance of each member coming together in the face of adversity.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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