TIFF15 REVIEW: Never Steady, Never Still [2015]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 18 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (Canada)
Studio: Christie Street Creative / Experimental Forest Films
Director(s): Kathleen Hepburn
Writer(s): Kathleen Hepburn

“Let’s imagine smacking them in their faces with our voices”

A lot can happen over a very short period of time. We leave home to start new lives and things come our way that either allow the rebirth to flourish or stop it in its tracks. Sometimes we return to take care of family. Sometimes it’s for a lost love. Other reasons stem from being out of options. Kathleen Hepburn‘s Never Steady, Never Still deals with each of these examples converging on a small Canadian town as one boy’s homecoming helps reveal a mother’s resilience and a friend’s journey towards happiness. Pain, suffering, and regret all have the potential of being washed away by one smile; the hopefulness of another’s joy serving as evidence that it can happen to anyone at anytime no matter the bad luck or tragedy befalling him along the way.

There’s a lot going on in these eighteen minutes and some plotlines appear incomplete as a result. With so many forks in the road, however, one leads to another and to remove it from the whole would be to weaken the remaining parts. It’s Jamie (Dylan Playfair) who has returned, walking the final stretch of road because his truck broke down, pushing his arrival to after mom’s (Tina Hedman‘s Judy) speech therapy session is complete. Their introductions have us anticipating the film as a depiction of familial love with a son giving back to a parent in a time of need—her ailment left unexplained. But Jamie is distracted, calling Danny (Parris JuRay) and leaving Judy in the middle of dinner to hang with him instead. This visit soon proving more involved than having a few days off.

Home becomes a destination for repair to those who left (Jamie) and stayed (Mom and Danny). Relationships are revealed as more than appearances suppose, memories shared about people no longer with them to pull at emotions otherwise inaccessible by words. Life is shown as a complicated road full of obstacles—walls too tall to vault without help. Family, friends, and their love must be tapped as a source of strength and catharsis so smiles and laughter in the face of difficulty can exclaim that complexity doesn’t have to mean impossibility. The success of one works as the success for all because they’re each intrinsically connected via past, present, and future, together or apart. Everything happens for a reason, it’s how we combat adversity that truly defines us. And no one has to do it alone.

Courtesy of TIFF

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