Normal is the aftermath of a deadly car crash that brings together a group of previously unconnected people and forces them to deal with the emotional fallout of the accident. Callum plays Walt Braugher, a college professor/failed writer who is unable to let go of his guilt over the incident.
The IMDB page: Normal (2007)
Normal was directed by Carl Bessai, who had worked with Callum previously on the filme Unnatural & Accidental. He also directed the films Emile, Lola and Johnny, the latter of which co-starred a certain Mr Dillon we all know and love. Travis McDonald wrote the screenpaly for Normal; his other work is minimal. A few TV episodes here and there (for the series "Blood Ties" and "Alienated"), and he also wrote the screenplay for the horror film Severed.
As for the cast of Normal... it's really not hard to tell this movie is both Canadian and filmed in B.C. So many repeating co-stars! Carrie-Anne Moss has worked with Callum twice previous to this in Memento and Snow Cake. (She also appeared in the "due South" episode Juliet is Bleeding.) Andrew Airlie is one of those guys who is seemingly everywhere, including the "Da Vinci's Inquest" episode Fantasy with Callum. Tygh Runyan appeared with Callum in Unnatural & Accidental, and appeared on "Battlestar Galactica" twice (The Eye of Jupiter and Rapture). Others who worked with Callum: Camille Sullivan (The Butterfly Effect), Lauren Lee Smith ("The L Word", "Mutant X"), Allison Hossack ("Da Vinci's Inquest", "Kingdom Hospital"), and much of the other supporting cast. Shockingly, Michael Riley had never worked with Callum before (though he did appear in the "due South" episode Hawk and Handsaw) - this is likely because their combined awesome causes my brain to explode. Last of the principal cast is Kevin Zegers, who has unfortunately been in four of the Air Bud movies - a franchise we can all be thankful Callum has had no involvement in.
Cast / Characters:
Callum Keith Rennie
Lauren Lee Smith
Runtime: 100 minutes
IMDB rating: 5.8 (347 votes)
Keywords (Select): car accident, ensemble cast, rough sex, afternoon delight (HEE), mother son incest, post traumatic stress, female nudity, father son conflict, male nudity, sex with stepmother, loud sex (HI CALLUM), incest overtones, adultery
Genie Awards (2009)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Callum Keith Rennie (\o/ \o/ \o/)
Leo Awards (2008)
Best Direction in a Feature Length Drama - Carl Bessai
Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Feature Length Drama - Camille Sullivan
Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Feature Length Drama - Tygh Runyan (Callum was also nominated in this category.)
Vancouver International Film Festival (2007)
Best Western Canadian Feature Film - Carl Bessai
Writers Guild of Canada Awards (2007)
WGC Feature Film - Travis McDonald
+ 11 other nominations
There is one user comment. Clearly, this is another one of those Really Popular Movies that Callum is known for.
Nothing Radically Novel, But I Liked It
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!
You can find all the comments here, on the off chance that someone else comments.
Callum Quotient: I'd say about 60%.
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- Walt: She was in jail?
Dennis: [exasperated] Yes.
Walt: What did she do?
Dennis: Something illegal. Nothing bad.
- Walt: [distracted] I see your point.
Abby: What point?
Walt: Whatever you're saying.
- Sherri: I hate the weather.
Walt: I hate teaching. ... I just wanted a regular paycheque so that I could write my novel.
- Catherine: Nobody wants me to remember. They think it'll just make it worse. But people don't realize, you can't go back. You just can't. And even if you could, you wouldn't know how.
- Catherine: You have no idea what I go through every night. What it's like to be a mother and to know exactly what you're on this Earth for. And to have it taken away from you.
- In order to get into the character of a woman who uses her sexuality to get ahead in the world, Lauren Lee Smith studied the film To Die For (a 1995 film starring Nicole Kidman in a similar role).
- Travis McDonald wrote the script for Normal after watching a childhood friend of his be killed by a drunk driver.
- Walt's therapy session with Carl. It's elegant in it's simplicity - two guys sitting across from each other - and yet it manages to say so much about who Walt is now and who Walt used to be. Callum's performance here is amazing, and I would hand him every acting accolade out there based on this scene alone.
- That sex scene. You know what I'm talking about. Let us all take a moment to thank Callum for the LOLs and *cringe*s that scene brought us.
- Elise and Jordie start their affair, immediately followed by Elise distracting Carl the only way she knows how. This isn't my favourite scene in the movie (I find this whole plotline unbelievably awkward), but the back-to-back nature of it is interesting.
- When Sylvie comes to visit Dennis (after a little matchmaking from Walt). They are totally adorable, aww. ♥
- Jordie and Catherine have a heart-to-heart by the waterfront.
- Catherine and Walt meet face to face. Walt breaks down. Stellar acting all around.
Do I want to show this to my parents / friends / co-workers?
Really well done.
Great performances, but nothing to write home about otherwise.
Not that good.
None at all!
A little bit, nothing major.
Are you sure this isn't Fight Club?
I laughed a couple of times.
Well, the sex scenes were hilarious. But probably not intentionally.
Canadian films are serious business. No laughter allowed.
They could probably remarket this movie as a porno.
I'm pretty sure there's some form of sex/nudity every 20 minutes.
Yeah, one or two scenes have some sexual content.
There's a smooch or two.
Nada, zip, zilch.
If you squint.
A little bit.
Quite a bit.
It's almost nonstop, really.
An angel who saves kittens from trees in his spare time.
He's a stand-up guy, always willing to help.
Decent guy. He's got some issues, but he means well.
He gives me the heebeejeebees.
I really hope I never run into this guy in a dark alley. Or anywhere else.
How many people does he kill?
Only one. But it was an accident. And he was drunk.
Okay, so maybe it was like 7.
Possibly it was a murder spree.
Not at all! He's completely normal.
Well, he's probably missing a few marbles, but what (former) writer isn't?
Crazy with guilt, yes, but otherwise sane.
He's on the crazy end of the sanity spectrum.
Phoar! Glasses + half-untucked shirt = adfjklsdajfsdkjadsohot.
He's pretty cute.
I wouldn't kick him out of bed.
Not really my type.
Pretty darn gay.
He'll go either way.
I doubt it. He's too interested in his female students.
No, he's completely straight.
Does he die?
You really want to know? Are you sure? Really sure? Well, then. (highlight to read)
::Not dead! \o/::
Bottom Line: An ambitious drama that occasionally sags under its own weight.
Carl Bessai's latest is intermittently affecting, though too often it wallows in soap opera. Carrie-Anne Moss' dramatic star turn could generate interest for a limited release in its native Canada and possibly on the festival circuit. Theatrical distribution elsewhere seems a long shot.
Catherine (Moss) is the grieving mother of teenager Nicky, traumatized to the point of near paralysis following his death in a drunk-driving accident. She's distanced herself from her husband and neglected her younger son Brady (Cameron Bright, "Birth") for two years. Jordie was Nicky's best friend, just out of juvenile detention, and living once again with his overbearing father Carl (Michael Riley) and his young wife Elise (Camille Sullivan). Professor Walt (Callum Keith Rennie), who has an autistic brother and a failing marriage, is overwhelmed with guilt at causing the accident that killed Nicky.
For most of its running time, "Normal" unfolds as a series of vignettes, some vivid and compelling. Catherine's anger and suffering are palpable, as is her family's frustration. Their weariness with her extended mourning is understandable too. The troubled Jordie, with his own burden to bear, is equally believable in his unfocused rage, and Walt's resigned responsibility toward his brother rings true.
When Jordie begins an affair with his stepmother, it's straight out of daytime television, and adds a good dose of unnecessary sordidness to narrative. Not to be outdone, Walt gets in on the sexy plot turns as well, with a student. It's here that "Normal" steps into the realm of melodrama in its attempt to investigate life in an affluent and white Vancouver suburb.
From the beginning, it's clear that the grief-stricken Catherine and the guilt-ridden Walt are on the sort of collision course. This results in mutual redemption, yet the catharsis is only mildly satisfying.
Bessai gets the strongest performances from Moss, the underrated Rennie (possibly best known now as the Cylon Leoben on "Battlestar Galactica") and Zegers, who makes a cliche character believable. "Normal" functions best as a series of snapshots about lingering guilt, the desire for redemption, and the dangers in allowing grief. But as a whole, "Normal" isn't quite convincing.
There are differences in degree between a forgettably good film and a good film that sticks in your memory like a sliver. The little things—lapses in tone, a scene that doesn’t feel right, slips in pacing, a strong-arming score, some ponderous dialogue—add up.
At first, the only degrees in Carl Bessai’s Normal are temperature-related. Aerial shots offer a removed view of upper-middle class neighbourhoods, and then we’re plunged into the chill: a mother, Catherine (Carrie-Anne Moss), still bathing in grief over her teenaged son’s death; the son’s friend and the driver on that tragic night, Jordie (Kevin Zegers), who’s just been released from prison but not his anger; Walt (Callum Keith Rennie), a teacher frozen with guilt over drunk-driving the other car that night and killing Catherine’s son.
Bessai draws us into and draws out these people’s pain and seething suffering. Some scenes—a student’s reason for not handing in an essay, a pizza job interview, the jagged, jarring shots of Walt’s mildly autistic brother—seem the stuff of real life, entirely natural and unforced. And the ending, or at least one of the two dramatic climaxes just before the end, is just right—the irresolution of grief meets the impossibility of absolution.
So why doesn’t Normal quite come into its own? While the acting is often fine, the setting and storylines don’t have enough depth to be original. Hollywood films, too, offer glassy scores and are usually set in beautifully appointed but basically lifeless bourgeois homes. Not just one but two smashing-things scenes reveal a film that prefers to make characters’ pent-up frustrations so obvious they verge on cliché.
Without more subtle feeling and nuanced dialogue, these characters and their relationships echo more strongly of individually stronger, distantly related works that have focussed just on the grieving mother (Blue, Birth) or the professor sleeping with his student (Oleanna, Disgrace) or the son sleeping with an older woman (The Graduate, Spanking The Monkey) or even the autistic man (Rain Man). Of course, Normal is not these films mashed together, or just another people-linked-by-a-traumatic-event film (Exotica, Crash, etc) but it doesn’t quite become enough of itself, finding its own way, to avoid the ghostly outlines of these films.
The women here tend to be a little too uninvolved, a little too needy, while the men too viciously aloof, too wilfully aggressive in a narrative that works best when it’s about passivity. Jordie’s father comes off as a particularly dull and brutal 2-D figure, while his wife is left out in the cold by the story.
In the end, for all its smooth touches and sharp emotions, this Canadian film still has something of a better-than-normal CBC TV movie about it and not enough big-screen originality.
The official site from Bankside Films is here - includes the trailer, production notes, stills and more.
scriggle posted screencaps of the Behind the Scenes featurette here, and from the first part of the movie here.
The movie is is available on DVD both in stores and online through retailers such as Amazon.
I like Normal a lot. It's not an original concept, nor is it perfect by any means. Yet despite this, it accomplishes what it sets out to do: focus in on the lives of three people who are all affected - in wildly different ways - by one terrible incident.
A lot of this is the work of the amazing cast. Normal is incredibly well-cast and it is a better movie for it. Callum, in particular, is standout and absolutely deserves all the recognition he's gotten for his performance. His character is 'the bad guy', yes, but it's a true testament to his skill as an actor that not only do you understand Walt, but you also end up sympathizing with him in all his hard-drinking, philandering glory. Walt's relationship with Dennis, his mildly autistic brother, is one of my favourite aspects of the movie, and goes a long way in making us understand who Walt is. (Tygh Runyan, the actor who plays Dennis, deserves equal credit for making that on-screen relationship work. I'd love to see the two of them work together again.)
As I said, Normal is not perfect. There are bumps and rough spots, but I absolutely recommend it. Even if character dramas aren't your cup of tea, it's worth a watch for Callum's performance alone.