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Normal More at IMDbPro »

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Like watching somber paint dry

Author: MBunge from Waterloo, Iowa
11 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Watching this film is like trying to eat a gallon of tapioca pudding in a single sitting. Even if you love the taste, there comes a point where you're so sick of it that every spoonful becomes torture. In the case of Normal, a lot of fine acting goes to waste in service to an almost intolerably boring story that grinds away at your very will to live.

This is one of those slice-of-life indy flicks that don't have a real plot but instead focus on people connected by a single event. In this case, that linking incident is an auto accident that killed a 16 year old boy. Two years later, his mother Catherine (Carrie-Ann Moss) is practically a basket case, still wallowing in her grief. She has no time or energy for her husband (Andrew Airlie), her other son (Cameron Bright) or really anything else in the world.

Catherine's son was the passenger in the stolen car driven by Jordie (Kevin Zegers). Two years later, Jordie gets out of juvenile detention for car theft and returns home to his angry, resentful father (Michael Riley) and his hot, young and neglected stepmother (Camille Sullivan). Jordie is sort of a ball of undirected guilt and rage who gets a menial job at a pizza place, runs into the old girlfriend of Catherine's son (Britt Irvin) and if you think the whole angry young man + hot and neglected stepmom thing works out the way it usually does in these stories, you're absolutely right.

Walt (Callum Keith Rennie) is the drunk driver who smashed into Jordie's car and killed Catherine's son. Two years later, Walt is a writing teacher who's traded in his own writing for self loathing and drives away his supportive wife (Allison Hossack) with his emotional and verbal abuse. Walt quickly hooks up with a pretty TV weathergirl (Lauren Lee Smith) who's taking his writing class. He also spends a lot of time trying to help his autistic brother Dennis (Tygh Runyan). Dennis was a passenger in Walt's car the night of the crash and was so affected by it, he's has been unable to leave his apartment ever since. But out of guilt or honest concern for his brother, Walt tries to push Dennis into seeing Sylvie (Tara Frederick), a prison pen pal of Dennis' that just got released.

Even though I couldn't enjoy them, I recognize there are a lot of very good performances in this movie. Carrie-Ann Moss is very powerful and present in Catherine's grief. Lauren Lee Smith is pitch perfect as an ambitious young woman who doesn't understand why she's attracted to middle aged men. Camille Sullivan is wonderfully vulnerable as Jordie's hot but lonely stepmom and Allison Hossack is also quite appealing as Walt's wife until the script pushes the eject button on her character. Callum Keith Rennis is great as a guy going through a midlife crisis while trying to deal with his disabled brother, though none of it quite connects it all back to the initial tragedy of the story. Tygh Runyan is a perfect collection of compulsive mannerisms, though Dennis is never allowed to be much more than that. I can't exactly say that Kevin Zegers does a particularly complex or deep acting job here, but he has an undeniable screen presence and never looks like a brainless piece of meat.

However, I was unable to fully appreciate any of those actors because Normal left me squirming in my seat from the crushing sameness in tone and tenor that bled through every elongated moment of this film. This is a one-note script and it keeps plinking away at that one emotional note like somebody left one of those dipping birds on a xylophone. The movie is so intent on hammering away at this single dreary, exhausted mood and how it dominates these three different groups of people, that it ignores the potentially interesting differences between them.

For example, the film never examines the differences between Walt and Catherine. One continues to care for his autistic brother despite his own misery while the other is indifferent and somewhat damaging to her husband and child. The relationships between Walt and Dennis and Jodie and his father are also explained almost entirely through expository dialog. You could take each individual storyline in Normal and expand it out into a deeper, more thematically and dramatically diverse movie of its own. Instead, it's like three separate short films with the exact same style and intent were edited together to create a really, really boring feature.

After a while, I couldn't stand Normal anymore and sat there wishing it would just end already. It was too narratively cramped to hold my interest. You might have a different reaction but I can't recommend any film that punished me like this one did.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Tough to watch

Author: SnoopyStyle
27 July 2014

Catherine (Carrie-Anne Moss) is still suffering after her 16 year old son died in a car crash. Dale (Andrew Airlie) is her frustrated husband. Jordie (Kevin Zegers) just got out of juvenile detention after crashing a stolen car. Carl (Michael Riley) is his angry father. Walt (Callum Keith Rennie) is a guilt-ridden college professor with an autistic brother Dennis. They are all connected by one incident as each has to search for normal.

There are some good acting here. I really like Carrie-Anne Moss. However it's just a tough movie to keep watching. It is a depressing movie to begin with but the three separate story lines make it disjointed and more difficult. It's never going to be a summer popcorn movie, but it's a little tougher than I even anticipated. The movie needs a few more connections with these stories. That's where the drama could truly explode exponentially. This could be even better if this movie is about Jordie, Catherine and Walt meeting and dealing with each other. It happens eventually but I would want this to be the entire movie. It happens a little too late.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A disjointed story of sad, angry, insulting miserable humans

Author: OJT from Norway
22 February 2013

Beware, don't watch this if you're depressed or wanting some entertainment! We're introduced to an interesting gallery in the start of the movie, and the actors are doing their job. Great cast, but that's about all. It's sort of annoying that we don't clay understand if the main event in the film, the loss of a teenager, already has happened or not. Carrie Anne Moss, which is great as always, finally makes us think it's happened.

And that sums up my main problem with this movie. I think you really need to get the whole story to get to feel the tragedy. When we finally understand, after 13 minutes, it's almost too late. How is a loss that long time ago able to be so profound on so many? The mother is feeling she didn't know her lost son that well, And then the other son still living is as unloved as can be!!!

It's also told in a for me a bit too depressive way. There's nothing positive to too see for the first half an hour. Tragic human lives, and I both Moss and Kevin Zegers difficult to like. And the people keep insulting each other on a too large scale for me to believe in. Even the persons on you think you'll like ends up beeping unlikeable. And if that's not enough, people here which don't like each other ends up having sex. Is it the times? That also makes it more difficult to identify with the main characters.

And then when you expect the film to take off, nothing simply happens. It feels like a kind of a disjointed story. The actors are not to blame, and not so much the instruction either, I think. They all do a good job. The manuscript is probably the main problem.

Sorry to see such a good cast go to waste in a film like this. The persons are not only insulting each other, the filmmakers are insulting us viewers. Go rather see the great film "The dead girl" by Karen Moncrieff, which is also based on a similar idea, but much more gripping told and well done.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

high ambitions

Author: Armand from Romania
16 July 2014

good cast, interesting idea. and an old recipes who do not really working in this case. the lost son, the characters connections around this tragedy are far to be a new subject and that is the great problem of movie. it seems be confuse, it seems use a seductive cast for ambiguous purpose. slice of gray universe, dominated by frustration and bad emotions, it is saved by the acting of actors - Carrie - Anne Moss is the best example. admirable is , in same measure, the work of Kevin Zegers and Tygh Runyan but , after the end, it seems be not enough. something missing and the cause is that you knows the story lines and the ambition of profound one is lost in too many details. short - a decent film. but nothing more.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A little something, a lot nothing

Author: pro-phy from Germany
15 September 2010

Call me stupid, but I did not get the point of this movie. As I am about to watch the Carrie-Anne Moss "videography" I kind of had to go through this one. ..and this is a tough I can tell.

Although there are quite interesting scenes - whether it is some nude scene (which are quite authentic) - this movie seemed not to come to an end. This is about regret, hope, affairs, pain, .. just too much of everything for me but nothing done the right (intense) way as it should be. The scenes are just to short and too much seesaw as one could get into it. It is as if the director wanted to put just everything in - whether it fits or not..

The plot could be told told in two sentences.. The story is nothing new.. There are many "side"plots which seem so go no where, that cross each other from time to time what made me lose the thread and finally the interest in this movie. The camera is very shaky in some scenes..

anyhow I like the actors but this is - to sum it up - neither fish nor fowl. Maybe you like it - or understand it - then tell me please ;)

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14 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Nothing Radically Novel, But I Liked It

Author: Subhamoy Sengupta from Paderborn, Germany
14 June 2008

This film is actually for the beginners. Beginner everything. Beginner cine-goer, beginner observer, beginner lover, beginner recuperating person. It did not tell me anything I already did not know. But I liked the style of representation in this film. Similar situations do happen in real life, though sometimes much less predictable, much more pivotal, and beyond redemption. There is, however, no point in making a film on what is the worst that could happen. It makes all the more sense to show while on your way to the last stand, at the edge of loneliness, what it is that you would cling on to or let go of. Sometimes that thing is within your reach, sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is well-deserved, sometimes it is just a matter of chance. This film looks into some such characteristic cases.

Pretty much everyone in this film did what they had been asked of, I think. That was not much of a challenge. They are making more films like these nowadays, so probably it will not leave any deep impression for the days to come. But still, watching it just once will not be an utterly disappointing or revolting experience. You can raise questions, of course. But as you will soon realize, the answer to most questions is "It was never really meant to be a masterpiece or anything." And that pretty much sums it up!

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