Movie Review: Never Steady, Never Still

By Thom Compton 15.04.2018

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Never Steady, Never Still (UK Rating: 15)

Never Steady, Never Still - released in UK cinemas from 20th April via Thunderbird Releasing - is the kind of film that should just work. It has everything a good movie needs to work, from an excellent cast, to a brilliant screenplay, and a humble first-time director in Kathleen Hepburn. For the most part, it does work, effortlessly combining the stories of loss, illness, and self discovery into an emotional Brillo pad that would wear through the soul of the most hardened individual. However, for all its ingredients that seem ripped out of "How to Make an Oscar Winning Picture," the book (based on a movie, inspired by a screenplay, loosely based on a podcast), Never Steady, Never Still spends too much time being real, and not enough time being endearing.

The story should be about Judy, and for some of the time it is. Judy, played by Shirley Henderson in the kind of performance acting coaches would kill to get out of one of their students, suffers from Parkinson's. She lives with her son, Jamie, and her husband Ed. Judy spends a lot of her time trying to be independent, but due to the severity of her condition, this is often difficult to do.

Meanwhile, Jamie seems to be drifting through life, while also having a serious internal struggle when it comes to his sexuality. Jamie ends up stealing the show, and it's kind of depressing. Actor Theodore Pellerin gives a perfectly capable performance; however, Jamie's story is much more difficult to swallow than Judy's. When Ed passes away, they both seem lost, but Judy is lost both physically and mentally. Jamie is largely still dealing with the same conflicts - just his dad has passed away. Mind you, that's a pretty big issue for a "just," but all will come clear soon.


 
Welcome to soon! The problem is that most of Jamie's problems are self inflicted, and it makes him very difficult to root for. He goes to seemingly outrageous lengths to prove (mostly to himself) that he's not gay, and even has a scene where he's genuinely creepy. Like, hide your daughters, this guy's a sleaze-ball, kind of creepy. While it is likely to showcase how confused he is (he does redeem himself, sort of), it's a pretty bold line he's placed in the sand, and the time given to his redemption is far too little. It doesn't help that, even in a movie that could double as an advert for anti-depressants, he's the biggest downer in the entire film. Yes, his dad just died. Yes, he's struggling to figure out who he is… yet he seems as times to relish in spreading the misery, being difficult to like, whether you are in the movie or not.

Meanwhile, Judy gets pushed to the background. She's just trying to do her best, and it's heartbreaking watching her struggle to even function after Ed dies. Her resilience is beautiful and, again, Shirley Henderson plays her so well that yours truly thought they got an actress with Parkinson's for the sake of being authentic. She's just astounding, really. The whole cast is seriously good, but she steals the show in literally every facet of her performance. It just would have been nice if she got a little more to perform.

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Never Steady, Never Still feels a lot like Jamie. It's internally struggling to be what it wants to be, and feels like it's often fighting with itself. It also has a bad habit of forgetting about Judy, and while its intentions with Jamie's story are most definitely sincere, it pushes the bleakness of his response to his life situations to the point where sometimes you just don't like him at all. Worse yet, it never really gives any sense of redemption, and while it can be nice to see a movie buck traditional story elements, pushing it too far also makes it seem like the movie is starring the villain.

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