This review may contain spoilers.
From the creators of His Hands, Darius Shu and Arron Blake, comes another short film masterpiece. I AM NORMAN. Once you’ve had a hit film, there is always pressure to make your next one just as successful, and after the success of His Hands the pressure was certainly on for this film to be just as good, if not better.
There was a lot of speculation as to what the film would be about, and Blake and Shu even held a competition via Instagram for people to try and guess. There was nothing to go by except the tagline “some would say what I do is sick”. Some suggested that Norman likes to hunt people in the woods for fun, another stated he was a cannibal whilst others mentioned that he might be a werewolf. It’s interesting to hear these ideas but I must admit, I didn’t have a clue what the synopsis for this could’ve been until I saw it.
The film sees Norman, a young man who, for the past four years, has been living in his car but absolutely loving it – “It’s my peaceful place and in the car, no one can touch you”. Norman takes a filmmaker into the woods to reveal his dark secret. (Viewer discretion is advised at the start).
Having already established a type of contract with them, Norman films people’s suicides. He then sends the footage to the deceased person’s relatives, who ultimately have rejected and disowned that person for whatever reason. It’s all part of the service Norman provides. “A lot of people would say what I do is sick, but they don’t know me”. A lot of issues and themes of LGBTQIA+, mental health and gay conversion therpay are featured. What’s shocking is the fact that gay conversion therapy is still carried out in the UK today, and that some people genuinely believe it works.
The film is well executed and beautifully captured. The camera shots have a narrative feel to them, like watching a storyboard slowly unfold. The footage from the drone is particularly remarkable, and the visuals in general are strikingly serene. Acting wise, I must applaud Arron Blake for his portrayal of Norman, he played the part with real conviction, so much so, that it felt like I was watching a documentary. It probably helped having the specific make-up and clothing that was needed for his character, but he definitely looked, sounded and acted like the man you would expect to see in this genre of film.
The film has real power and emotion, opening your mind to the life of men who are confused, abandoned and left to survive on their own without knowing who they are. At first you might think of Norman as a “weirdo” and that your first impression of him is something negative… but as you delve into his mind and the reasons for why he does what he does, he is simply there because he is needed by others. He might just understand what that person is going through. “Suicide is a very personal thing, but some people want it witnessed. They probably don’t want to be alone when they do it”.
Even though the film is less than 20 minutes long, it carries certain essences of the likes of Tarantino, Hitchcock and Kubrick and seems like a fusion of all three. And who knows, with a short film of this quality, perhaps these two brilliant young filmmakers could go on to be worthy of being up there alongside such classic feature filmmakers. When watching this particular film, you wouldn’t be too surprised.