By Rosemary Pacheco
What exactly is it? Is it the same for you as it is for the next person? Probably not, but it’s what we all want to be thought of as – fitting in, not considered “strange.”
This very subject is the premise for Scorpio Film Releasing’s new feature – a psychological thriller entitled just that, NORMAL. It is directed by award winning director Richard Marr-Griffin, and is written by Leonard Schwartz. It is Griffin’s fourteenth feature, and it is the story of Jim, a seemingly “normal” young man who is the maintenance supervisor in an apartment building – his tenants though, are somewhat demanding.
Jim is replaying his tortured past, through a series of flashbacks, and interactions with these mysterious tenants he is surrounded by. We not only learn of his dark secrets, but also what it means to be normal. The answers he finds in his journey will shatter not only his perceptions of the past, but also his fragile grip on reality. Jim is played brilliantly by Michael Reed, and his lover, played by Sarah Nicklin, Reed’s wife in real life, one of many collaborations for them on a Richard Griffin film. Other very notable performances include Nat Sylva as the brother of the troubled man, the somewhat disturbed Kate, played by the talented Elyssa Baldassari. In addition, Ben Royer, Patrick Keefe and Christopher Ferrieira also give memorable performances as potential male lovers.
The cinematography is beautifully dreamy: most notably a flashback scene depicting the young Jim played by John Quinlan. Other cast members include Monica Saviolakis, Rich Tretheway, Shannon Hartman, and Samantha Acampora as a neighboring family. David Wilson as a nearby tenant. Patricia Hawkridge and Pat O’Hara as nurses in the hospital and the inimitable Michael Thurber as the man in black.
This is not the first collaboration for Richard and Lenny. MURDER UNIVERSITY, released in October 2013, and currently available on VOD and DVD, is a horror/slasher film that follows a series of brutal, cult-like murders taking place at a New England college.
NORMAL, however, is a different sort of film. It is highly cerebral and ponders those questions that we all ask ourselves. It was born out of the grief and loss that occurred in both of these men’s lives. Schwartz identified with the idea after losing his father awhile ago. He labored for three months, writing constantly. “I couldn’t shake it when it was done” said Schwartz. “Part of me still can’t. Part of me still feels like I’m stuck in that movie script.”
Griffin drew from his own pain and losses of the past to help shape the film. “When I first read the screenplay for NORMAL from Lenny Schwartz, I found that with each page my emotions ran the gamut from a deep, visceral sadness to unmitigated fear,” Griffin said.
“So many movies today are violent, but what Lenny wrote so brilliantly was a movie about violence. And not the blood and guts variety, but a violence that’s deep, emotional and profound. Weeks after reading the screenplay I couldn’t shake the emotions, and I still can’t.”
“I hope the audience shares in the same troubling nightmare Lenny wrote so brilliantly when they see the film in theaters. I am honored to have the chance to direct such a masterwork,” Griffin added.
What’s next for Richard? Two more films are in the making – ACCIDENTAL INCEST, in production now, and HIGHER METHODS, beginning production in January of 2015. The former feature film is the very black comedy about two young lovers who find out that they are – you guessed it, brother and sister.
HIGHER METHODS was originally a play with a very successful run in Providence last year about an actor who cannot discern fiction from reality. Having seen the play, I cannot wait for the film version to be made and released. Richard also has his newest film FUTURE JUSTICE, an action Sci-Fi thriller about a future gone straight to Hell, and one man’s efforts to bring justice to the world. The film is now in post, is written by Nat Sylva, and scheduled for a spring or early summer release.
For now, NORMAL is a film that you do not want to miss. It will have a Boston premiere on March 1st, 2014 at the Somerville Theatre, Davis Square, Somerville MA, 02144. (It is not suitable for young children due to nudity and graphic subject matter.)
For more info follow Richard on Twitter @ScorpioFilm or on Facebook.
Rosemary Pacheco is an actress, writer and a professional event/wedding designer. She writes film news for Motif magazine in Rhode Island, currently appears in a web series, and is in production on two feature films.