Kathleen Hepburn’s formidable feature debut, developed from her award-winning short film of the same name, makes the most of its expanded space to explore the story of Judy, a loving mother coping with Parkinson’s amidst the stunning beauty and rugged nature of Northern British Columbia.
Judy’s incurable disease makes the most mundane tasks, liking buttoning a shirt, efforts of extreme focus and determination. Her husband Ed (Nicholas Campbell) provides much needed support as her caregiver. Rounding out the family is Jamie (Théodore Pellerin), their grown and aimless son, whose personal struggles are less visible but no less debilitating. A sudden loss makes their already difficult lives more fragile. Reluctantly, Jamie goes to Alberta’s oil fields in hopes this will lift a burden from his stoic mother, who is ill equipped yet resolved to survive in isolated circumstances.
Shirley Henderson’s astonishing performance as Judy combines the quiet resolve learned from a life that has never been easy with the demanding physicality of the role. The devastating effects of long-term illness on a family draw out both the compassion and cruelty that exist in people around us. The former is evident in the friendship that Judy and Jamie form with a pregnant teenage cashier, while Jamie must contend with an abusive and toxic co-worker (Jared Abrahamson) in an already brutish work environment. As writer/director, Hepburn is intimately familiar with the characters she has crafted and takes an understated approach to emotional material, resulting in a touching and deeply affecting work of cinema.