Never Steady, Never Still

| October 31, 2017

I wasn’t familiar with actress Shirley Henderson until I saw her in Urban Myth, but I know that she has appeared in dozens of films, including in the Harry Potter franchise. At that point, I was hooked.

I very much loved her in the film Never Steady, Never Still, in her portrayal of a mom, not struggling with Parkinson’s disease but living as best she can, at first with the support of her loving husband and son. But after her husband’s death, she is left on her own for a bit, while her son, dealing with his own life issues goes far away from their home in Alberta to the oilfields in Canada to find his life’s purpose.

The official synopsis is as follows:
The feature film debut of writer/director Kathleen Hepburn, Never Steady, Never Still, is a tender and heartbreaking story of a physically disabled mother and discontent son – each alienated from their world and struggling to manage in the face of grief, guilt and chronic disease.

Having lived with Parkinson’s disease for almost two decades, Judy (Shirley Henderson) is faced with the heightened challenges of daily life when her husband and caregiver dies of a sudden heart attack on their isolated property on the shores of Stuart Lake. Meanwhile, her teenage son Jamie (Théodore Pellerin), pushed by his father to get a job on the oil fields, is terrified by the idea of filling his shoes at too young an age, and grappling with the daunting task of becoming a man in world that has no apparent room for weakness.

Henderson is a tremendous force in this film, and the challenges that Judy faces are great, but she always seems to persevere and make it through. It was said to see her husband pass away, knowing that he was her rock and support. One poignant scene is when she is stopped by the cops for driving from the grocery store. She hasn’t taken her medicine, and she is shaking uncontrollably—to the point where the cop thinks that she is under the influence. The pained looked on her face—not one of asking for help, but one of having to surrender to taking her medicine consistently—is so heart wrenching.

The special effects and makeup in Never Steady, Never Still are on point, in showing the full effect on what Parkinson’s can do to one’s body. The story is told not through a lens of pity but of triumph, with Judy managing on her own the best way that she can, while only accepting help when it’s absolutely necessary! Given all this, she loves her son and is glad that he is trying to become independent. This independence, however, comes at a price for him. He eventually returns home, surely right when his mom needs him.

Never Steady, Never Still screened at the recent 53rd Chicago International Film Festival. It is due for wide release in early spring 2018. Look for upcoming screenings on the film’s Facebook page

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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