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Norma short film review

★★★★

Directed by: #SteveSale

Written by: #SteveSale


 

‘In death we do not part’ is the tagline for Norma, a short film about grief, loss and the struggle to move on. Director Steve Sale’s minimalist piece is equal parts haunting, heart-breaking and uplifting in one.


Norma (Margaret Ibbotson) lives alone following the death of her husband. Closing herself off from the world and rejecting her daughter’s (Charlotte Sale) efforts to reach out, she tries to null the pain she feels from her loss with small familiar comforts. But strange happenings around her house suggests that she might not be as alone as she thought…


Norma is a moving short film about acceptance and coming to terms with death. It tells the story of its 87-year old protagonist beautifully through the wonderfully expressive performance of star Margaret Ibbotson, and the inventive and crafted direction of Steve Sale. There’s barely a word of dialogue in the piece (all of it coming courtesy of the daughter), with Norma’s frailty displayed by excellent cinematography – such as in an effecting scene following just her hobbling feet around her home. Key shots of her smiling in a photo with her now deceased husband, and her speedy dismissal of her daughter’s phone call, are however brilliant hints to how this frailty is emotional, not just physical.


Margaret Ibbotson’s eyes and facial expressions show the immense weight of sorrow, as Norma tries to find herself following her husband’s death. These are replaced by fear and trepidation when bizarre events start taking place around her home, and show that confronting her fears and emotions is as big of a mountain for her to mentally climb. The film’s closing shot features a very different tone, and Ibbotson’s ability to convey a multitude of positive emotions with just a shift of her facial muscles makes for a remarkable and moving climax.


The film deals with complex themes within its short runtime, and leaves audiences with much to ponder once the credits roll. Norma’s struggle to accept the death of a loved one is a strong portrayal of how much damage loss can cause – with her pained and feeble demeanour clearly amplified by her emotional state. The film also provides plenty of moments of which audiences can speculate the true meaning of, with a montage of images playing as Norma struggles to climb her stairway – hinting that her life may be flashing before her eyes as she ascends. Whether the film’s ending is a happy or sad one is also up for debate – for a film that is primarily about struggling with loss, the true nature of the strange occurrences around the home are key to determining whether Norma accepts the tragic event, whether she is happy to be lost in a delusion, or whether she and her husband are truly reunited. The film is stronger for its ambiguity, and is commendable for its bravery in this area.


Bittersweet and poignant, Norma is a brilliantly unique short film which shows not tells. Steve Sale expertly handles this sensitive story, and delivers a compact emotional rollercoaster that deals with complex and challenging themes.



 

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