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Never Steady, Never Still is a Canadian drama film, which premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.[1]

Never Steady, Never Still
Directed byKathleen Hepburn
Produced byJames Brown
Tyler Hagan
Written byKathleen Hepburn
StarringShirley Henderson
Théodore Pellerin
Nicholas Campbell
Mary Galloway
Music byBen Fox
CinematographyNorm Li
Edited bySimone Smith
Christie Street Creative
Experimental Forest Films
Distributed byThunderbird Releasing
Release date
  • 9 September 2017 (2017-09-09) (TIFF)
Running time
112 minutes

The full-length directorial debut of Kathleen Hepburn, the film is a family drama which stars Shirley Henderson as Judy, a woman struggling with the advancing symptoms of Parkinson's disease while her son Jamie (Théodore Pellerin) is struggling to come to terms with his identity.[2]

The film is an expansion of Hepburn's earlier short film of the same title, which starred Tina Hedman as Judy and Dylan Playfair as Jamie and is partially based on Henderson's own experiences with her mother's Parkinson's.[2]



Judy and her husband Ed live with their 18 year-old son Jamie in a remote, isolated community at the edge of Stuart Lake. Judy has suffered from Parkinson's Disease for 19 of the 23 years she and Ed have been married, with Ed acting as her supportive carer, helping her to complete basic tasks such as getting dressed and taking her medication. Despite her illness, Judy attempts to lead a normal life by attending a Parkinson's support group each week to help manage her disease. Jamie spends most of his time hanging out with his best friend Danny, smoking and playing hockey. When Danny moves away for college, Jamie finds himself at a loose end, struggling to fully deal with the enormity of his mother's illness and feeling left behind as Danny's phone calls become more sporadic. Ed convinces Jamie to get a job in the Alberta oil fields.

Jamie finds it difficult to fit in with his overly macho, co-workers and the testosterone-fuelled environment they create by frequently discuss topics that make him uncomfortable such as sex and violence and relentlessly bullying him. He struggles with his sexuality and briefly fantasises about kissing Danny. After returning from her support group one day, Judy finds Ed face down in the water having suffered a fatal heart attack. Jamie returns for the funeral and offers to move back home in order to look after Judy but she refuses, telling him he has to go and live his life. When she asks if he enjoys his job, he lies. Without Ed, Judy begins to find daily life more and more challenging but fiercely battles to remain independent. She often wakes up early in the morning and goes to sit in the lake where Ed drowned as a way to try and maintain their connection and feel close to him. While shopping in town, the cashier, a pregnant 17 year-old girl named Kaly, tells her that the store operates a home delivery service should she require it. Judy is pulled over when driving home because she is driving erratically and the sheriff assumes that she is drunk but, after explaining that she just needs to take her pills, he advises her that it is probably best she not drive at all unless absolutely necessary. As winter intensifies, making tasks such as chopping firewood even more difficult, Judy decides to call Kaly and have her deliver the groceries. Kaly begins to act as a companion for Judy who, in turn provides her with advice about her impending motherhood.

The death of his father causes Jamie to spiral and he develops a cocaine addiction after stealing some from his co-worker Daryl. He pays a female prostitute to give him oral sex but he does not enjoy it, he destroys his car windshield in a fit of rage. When Daryl chastises him for working too slow, Jamie lashes out and punches him. The two men get into a fight but Daryl is blamed and their boss tells Jamie that he is free to continue working as long as he passes a drug test. Jamie refuses to take the test, quits his job and returns home where he meets Kaly during one of her deliveries. Judy asks Jamie to pick up her pills and, while in town, he visits Kaly at work and asks her about her baby's father. She explains that he has broken all contact and she thinks he is scared. Although initially resistant, Jamie persuades her to meet him after her shift. Kaly asks about Judy and Jamie explains that, when he was younger, touching her hand would make her stop shaking which lead him to believe that her Parkinson's could be "turned off". He confesses that he finds it difficult to see her slowly deteriorate knowing that there is no chance she will get better. He then asks Kaly if she has ever been with another girl before confessing that he is confused and has thought about being with Danny. She kisses him and the two have a sexual encounter in his car. Afterwards, Kaly asks if he enjoyed it and he tells her that he did.

Jamie drives home and finds all of the lights turned off. Judy calls to him from the bathroom and he finds her lying in freezing cold water, unable to get out because she hasn't taken her pills. He carries her to her bed and helps her get dressed before breaking down in tears. He apologises for not bringing her medication sooner but she tells him not to worry. She then apologises to him, saying that she should be the one supporting him as opposed to the other way around. They embrace and promise to be there for one another. The next morning, Judy wakes up early and makes her way to the centre of the now-frozen lake where she sits down and talks to Ed, wishing him a Merry Christmas.


  • Shirley Henderson as Judy, a woman in her 50s who is suffering from Parkinson's disease
  • Théodore Pellerin as Jamie, Judy's rudderless son who is struggling with his identity
  • Nicholas Campbell as Ed, Judy's husband and carer
  • Mary Galloway as Kaly, a cashier that befriends Judy and Jamie, acting as a source of comfort to both
  • Lorne Cardinal as Lenny, Ed and Judy's neighbour and friend
  • Jonathan Whitesell as Danny, Jamie's best friend
  • Jared Abrahamson as Daryl, Jamie's co-worker with whom he frequently clashes
  • Hugo Ateo as Manuel, Daryl's brother and Jamie's co-worker
  • Sean Owen Roberts as Dave, one of Jamie's co-workers
  • Beverley Elliott as Sylvia, the woman in charge of running the support group that Judy attends
  • Sheila Patterson as Nadine, a member of Judy's support group
  • Eric Keenleyside as Don Camdon, Jamie's boss
  • Kelly Metzger as Margie, a member of Judy's support group
  • Mel Tuck as Horst, a member of Judy's support group
  • Chilton Craine as Wanda, the prostitute that Jamie visits
  • Stephen Cree Mollinson as the sheriff who pulls Judy over


Critical receptionEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 75%, based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10.[3] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 60 out of 100, based on 5 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[4]

Shirley Henderson received critical acclaim for her role as Judy, with The Irish Times calling it a "career-best performance" and an "extraordinary, detailed turn".[5] Similarly, Screen Daily stated that "not only does [Henderson] convincingly embody the relentless motion of Judy's disease, but also encapsulates the dignified resilience of a life lived with the affliction" before going on to say that her performance is a "tour de force which is, at times, devastating to watch".[6] Henderson was referred to as the "highlight" of the film by reviewers at the Glasgow Film Festival, explaining that "she never comes across as a victim of her disease, but rather as a strong individual who manages to cope in spite of her disability".[7]

Awards and accoladesEdit

At the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival, the film won three juried awards:[8]

  • Sea to Sky Award (recognizing exceptional work of a female key creative on a British Columbia-produced feature or short film)
  • BC Emerging Filmmaker Award
  • Emerging Canadian Director

In December, TIFF named the film to its annual Canada's Top Ten list of the ten best Canadian films.[9]

The film was tied with Ava and Hochelaga, Land of Souls for the most nominations in film categories at the 6th Canadian Screen Awards, earning eight nominations[10]:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ahearn, Victoria (31 August 2017). "Western Canada and debut filmmakers to shine in homegrown TIFF lineup". News 1130. CKWX. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b Peebles, Frank (11 January 2017). "Never Steady, Never Still to hit silver screen". Prince George Citizen. Glacier Community Media. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Never Steady, Never Still (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Never Steady, Never Still Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  5. ^ Brady, Tara (19 April 2018). "Never Steady, Never Still: A beautiful, wintry, heartfelt film". The Irish Times. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  6. ^ Baughan, Nikki (15 October 2017). "'Never Steady, Never Still': Busan Review". Screen Daily. Screen International. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  7. ^ Murray, Andrew (26 February 2018). "Glasgow Film Festival 2018: Never Steady, Never Still | Review". The Upcoming. FL Media. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  8. ^ "VIFF Announces BC and Canadian Award Winners for the 36th Annual Festival". Vancouver International Film Festival (Press release). Greater Vancouver International Film Festival Society. 7 October 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
  9. ^ Wilner, Norman (6 December 2017). "Canada's Top Ten has some glaring omissions". Now. Now Communications. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  10. ^ Vlessing, Etan (16 January 2018). "Canadian Screen Awards: Netflix's 'Anne With an E' Leads Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 23 April 2018.

External linksEdit