A closer look at Jonathan Segal’s ‘Norman’

Norman (2010)

“It’s not how important one feels when one dies, but rather how guilty everybody else feels.” 

Directed by Jonathan Segal, ‘Norman’ explores the coping mechanisms that a weak and flaw-ridden character uses to deal with life-changing situations whilst mirroring the emotion and anguish that comes with growing up.

Lets be honest, high school films are not kind to their protagonist’s. Take Norman (Dan Byrd), he has all the verified generic qualities of a high school ‘loser’, but after diving a little deeper into his monotonous life, we see that he is far more than this. Norman is despondent, and for good reason. He is a carer, a worrier and a warrior. Everyday of his life he is fighting an inevitable war with death that he knows he will eventually lose. It isn’t his war though; it’s his Father’s. This kid’s beautiful journey is a must see for all audiences.

‘Norman’ is aesthetically pleasing. There is abundant detail in every scene, and every scene screams with the poignant emotion that Norman is bottling up.  This kind of expression makes this a passionate and emotional story that is told with a very real and very important kind of pain. We are not detached from Norman, instead we are very much attached. It’s impossible not to feel angry at every foolish mistake he makes, and all we want to do is shield him from everything that is slowly destroying him.

Everyday of Norman’s life pushes his Father closer and closer towards losing a battle with cancer, and Norman’s life is ruled by this fear. It forces him to control what he can by doing things a certain way, and by hurting himself.

It’s not just a film about death and coping mechanisms, although it does tackle both of these things with dignity and originality, but it is also about a normal kid with abnormal problems. It’s about innocence and youth abandoning a character and teaching the very same character that life is not an easy ride. We watch Norman grow up rapidly before our very own eyes. He is forced into independence, and he is scared.

Instead of telling his classmates about his Father’s terminal cancer, he tells them about his own terminal cancer; the non-existent cancer that is growing inside of his perfectly healthy body. Everybody immediately feels sorry for Norman, and he gains more attention than he has ever received in his life. People feel guilty for the way that they have treated him in the past, and when Norman realises this, he carries on spinning his lies until they are out of control and ready to eat him alive.

With spot on (heart-breaking) performances and powerful themes, ‘Norman’ is a stunning piece of work that pulls you into the life of the protagonist and provokes you to feel and empathise. We root for him, we cry for him and most of all, we forgive him. After all, he’s no delinquent, but rather a masterpiece of a character built upon layers and layers of personality and flaws.

Lorna Webb

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