Being a teenager is hard. I know it. You know it. Everyone knows it. It is more difficult for some than it is for others and tragically it is so difficult for some that they decide to take their own lives. All it can take to make things that much better is just one person, one friend, sticking by them. This is something that I take from Norman.
Norman tells the story of Norman Long (Dan Byrd) who lost his mother in a car crash and whose father is dying of stomach cancer. Norman is a bit of a loner and is keeping his father’s condition a secret from his teachers and peers. Dark and depressed Norman lives an unhappy existence. Things start to get a little bit better though when he begins to bond with the sweet and genuine Emily Parrish (Emily VanCamp) at drama team try-outs after a chance meeting in the school corridor. Norman also catches the attention of his English teacher Mr Angelo (Adam Goldberg) who, seeing Norman’s potential, arranges for him to give a speech; much to Norman’s dismay. One day, after being confronted by his best (and only) friend James (Billy Lush), not wanting to tell the truth about his Dad, Norman professes that he is the one dying of stomach cancer. What wasn’t meant to go further than James is soon overheard by Emily before spreading around the entire school, adding more to his already heavy load.
Norman is a deep and complex character. He is dark, sarcastic, pessimistic, and suicidal; which is understandable given his circumstances. However Norman is also deeply caring and loving which can be seen in his relationship with his father and his relationship with Emily. He is also quite funny, delivering some wit filled comedy. Dan Byrd does a brilliant job at giving an incredibly realistic portrayal of a troubled teenager.
Emily is an exceptional character who looks past Norman’s negative aspects and sees him for the man he truly is. Emily is non-judgemental, compassionate, positive; just who Norman needs. Emily VanCamp is perfect for the role as she exudes these characteristics. The bond between Emily and Norman is amazing and there are some really touching moments between them (I must admit there were some moments where I teared up a little). There is a quote at the beginning of the film from an old 1950’s television show “We still don’t have that one thing that could give us a better way of life”. Emily gives Norman a better way of life.
Norman’s father Doug is superbly played by Richard Jenkins. Doug of course has cancer, has lost his wife and knows that soon he will be leaving Norman himself. Jenkins superbly portrays a man who cares deeply for his son and wants the best for him while suffering himself. The relationship between Norman and his father is absolutely stunning, they care for and love each other so very much. The realness of this relationship is a testament to the acting ability of Jenkins and Byrd.
The soundtrack to Norman, composed by Andrew Bird, really adds to the film. I won’t say much about it as I don’t know much about the intricacies of music but when you hear it you will see (or should I say hear) what I mean.
Norman showcases how things can get better for people like Norman, and how important it is for friends, family, peers, and colleagues to support and be there for them no matter what. Norman has this support and you know that things are going to get better.
Norman truly is an exceptional film and has easily earned a spot as one of my favourite films. I absolutely love the characters, the story, and the film’s message of hope. I think that everyone can take something from Norman and it is my hope that it gives hope to others like Norman.
3 out of 4 Stars
Directed By: Jonathan Segal
Produced By: Dan Keston, Rich Cowan
Writtern By: Talton Wingate
Music By: Andrew Bird
Running Time: 97 Minutes
M (Coarse Language) (New Zealand)
M (Mature Themes and Coarse Language) (Australia)
R (For Some Language) (United States)