If you're looking for movies that are better than Crash, you've got served really well in 2008 (speaking about theatre releases). First, there was This Beautiful City and then came Normal, two movies that talk about how, in a metropolis, people are connected to each other. While the script is quite simple (and comes with a few flaws), you watch this film for the cast's beautiful performance, which you can normally see through what is not said. Besides, it was good to see Carrie-Anne Moss showcases her talent after having wasted it in The Matrix trilogy.
The story takes place in Vancouver and follows three people. Catherine (Carrie-Anne Moss), a depressed mother, hasn't come to terms with the death of her son Nicky, who got hit by a drunk driver while he was in a car with his best friend, Jordy (Kevin Zegers). Besides, Dale, her husband, believes that it's better to "move forward". Walt (Callum Keith Rennie), the literature teacher who ran into Nicky, still lives with the remorse of having killed him. Furthermore, Walt has to deal with his rocky relation with his wife, his autistic brother and his search for redemption. Finally, Jordy, Nicky's best friend, got out of a youth detention centre and still feels remorse, because he was the driver when Nicky died. Moreover, Jordy has to deal with his dad (Michael Riley), who is angry at him, and his young (and hot) stepmother (Camille Sullivan).
At times, Normal raised the question whether its storyline is more suited for cable television or not given its three sub-plots. As a film, Normal's slow pace can be, at times, justified because director Carl Bessai aims to bring us slowly but surely toward what unite the three leading characters (i.e. the car crash). Obviously, before we come to that moment, the script certainly has no problem, despite its slow pace (which can be justified), to set the tone by presenting us how the three leading characters try to live in the aftermath of an event that brought them together before (which implies that they'll be brought together again in the final act). More importantly, everything seems to fall into part given that Bessai manages to show us the problems that the car crash has created on the three leading characters' life.
However, although I'm sure the film could have won the Genie Award for best picture, the film unfortunately has some flaws in the script. In fact, while the film takes the time to present the three leading characters' problems, it sometimes pays too much attention to unimportant things. For instance, when it comes to Walt, the film deals too much with his relation between his autistic brother and him. Therefore, one feels that it's actually more interesting to follow Catherine and Jordy.
Hopefully, if you're opened to independent films, you'll find that the cast's performance is rather outstanding. Of course, the film looks like it's documenting the unexciting daily life of some people and the performance, on the surface, might seem as emotionally moving as a furniture. However, the film's power lies in the actors' ability to suggest many things without necessarily relying on explicit lines. In fact, through the progression of the script, it doesn't take a genius to see how well Carrie-Anne Moss depicts Catherine's depression or how Callum Keith Rennie plays someone who tries to move forward but will always be remembering how he shattered the life of people who are connected to him by a tragic event. Of course, the script conveys the idea that no matter how your life is fucked up, there'll always be things that are a source of joy for you.
Finally, like Paul Haggis' overrated Crash, Normal is not the sort of drama that suit for the mainstream public for it looks boring. Nonetheless, for those who are opened to independent films, just watch it and I guarantee you that you'll like the film despite a flaw in the script.
Carrie-Anne Moss, Callum Keith Rennie, Kevin Zegers, Michael Riley, Brittney Irvin, Camille Sullivan and Lauren Lee Smith