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average rating is 3 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Sep 12, 2022

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Derek Norman
Written by:
Derek Norman
Derek Norman

A film is nothing without heart, which, fortunately, ‘Reclamation’ has in abundance, and in the end that’s enough to carry it through the fact that it has a distinct lack of a spark. Made by Derek Norman, and centring on his own personal troubles, you’ll be hard pushed to find an indie documentary this year with as much emotion invested into it, however, you’ll also struggle to find a documentary so one-dimensional, and, despite Norman’s best efforts, slightly turgid.


In fairness to Norman, this isn’t exactly his fault, it comes more with the territory of being a low-budget, feature-length documentary with such a personal message. It’s a film which will surely mean a lot to those that know Norman personally, but for most other viewers, they’ll find themselves becoming emotionally disengaged after a while, ultimately greeting what should be hard-hitting, meaningful meditations on life with a shrug.


As such, the real issue with ‘Reclamation’ is its length, at 95 minutes it is at least double the length it should be. As lovely as Derek Norman is, and believe me he seems to be a lovely man, listening to most people narrate events which we’re already largely disconnected from inevitably becomes dull. Perhaps, Norman should even be credited for his narration, many others would have caused disengagement after a mere 10 minutes, Norman lasts far longer, defying his slightly menacing appearance - shaven head and Viking beard - to appear as someone whom you just want to wrap your arms around in a great big bear hug.


The more you hear about Derek Norman’s story the more you want to give him a great big bear hug. Derek has fought back from rock bottom - a suicide attempt - rebuilt his life and made amends for the past. More heartbreakingly is his earnest attitude, and the numerous other personal hardships which have befallen him since his suicide attempt. He has reclaimed his life by doing the things which he love, and spending time with those who care most for him, and putting it into this documentary is a personal testament to that journey. Norman, and other people like him, should be credited for their honesty and bravery in sharing their sensitive stories.


It is also to Norman’s credit that he manages to demonstrate his obvious talent for film engaging through his soundtrack, integrating heavy metal - a passion of his - with dramatic piano sounds, particularly enjoyable as he imitates ‘Rocky’ at the start of the film. Mixed with some fun editing and some really beautiful shots of the American landscape, Norman clearly shows his talent for filmmaking, and even if this isn’t a perfect documentary, he injects it with enough to want a lot more from him in the future.


So yes ‘Reclamation’ may feature some PowerPoint graphics and transitions. And yes, the river runs dry in terms of the story after a while. But ‘Reclamation’ is still a perfectly competent film, and an inspiring story of coming back from the edge, and all of that is because of one man - Derek Norman.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
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