Written and directed by Jane Anderson, Normal follows the daily life of a middle aged man and his family as he struggles with his transsexuality and transitioning into the woman he was born to be. Released in 2003 and starring Jessica Lang (Irma Applewood), Tom Wilkinson (Roy ‘Ruth’ Applewood) and Hayden Panettiere (Patty Anne Applewood); the movie takes place in a typical Midwestern town of rural America and deals with many of the struggles transgender people and their closest relatives go through when someone significant in their lives is transitioning into the opposite gender they were born with.
Roy and Irma Applewood have had a long and successful marriage, boasting two children, a good career for tom and the acceptance of the local social scene. However this all changes when Roy announces that he is really a woman trapped in a man’s body and is intent on getting a gender change to ‘Ruth’; the woman he should have been born to be.
Jessica Lange (Big Fish, Tootsie) delivers an incredible performance as Tom (Ruth)’s wife as she struggles to deal with something well beyond her normal daily experience. Caught between the members of her church and the love of her husband, she has to decide who to support and make a stand behind whomever she decides to support. Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins, Shakespeare in Love) brings to life Tom ‘Ruth’ Applewood and her angst about the situation she has found herself in; trapped in a man’s body.
As Roy begins to change into Ruth she finds herself surrounded by transphobia coming from every direction; the target of ridicule and bullying as she struggles to become the woman she was meant to be. She meets resistance at work and at home in this touching portrayal of the issues surrounding people who live in a transgender world. Her son Wayne Applewood (Joseph Sikora) delivers the most fervent resistance to the situation at hand. Capturing the angst of a son whose father is transitioning into womanhood and fighting it ever step of the way.
Normal is a very interesting lens into the lives of people touched by someone transgendered. The actors bring to life the struggles, anger, joy, harassment and love in this touching portrayal. Ruth’s friends and co-workers alike respond honestly and genuinely to what their friend is going through. You can also expect the typical response from local church leaders and their followers; perpetuating the discrimination and hatred for people who are even slightly different than themselves. You will enjoy this movie, not only for the interesting way the characters are portrayed, but also for the subtle way it delivers its message. So grab some popcorn and enjoy!