Normal (2003 film)

Normal FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed byJane Anderson
Produced byThomas J. Busch
Cary Brokaw
Lydia Dean Pilcher
Written byJane Anderson
StarringJessica Lange
Tom Wilkinson
Music byAlex Wurman
CinematographyAlar Kivilo
Edited byLisa Fruchtman
Distributed byHBO Films
Release date
  • January 21, 2003 (2003-01-21) (Sundance)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States

Normal is a 2003 drama film produced by HBO Films, which became an official selection at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. Jane Anderson, the film's writer and director, adapted her own play, Looking for Normal. The film is about the transition of Ruth Applewood, a fictious transgender woman who is said to have been living as a man for 25 years of marriage. A Midwestern factory worker, Applewood (then going by "Roy") stuns her wife of 25 years by saying she wishes to undergo sex reassignment surgery and be out as a woman.

In a HBO interview Anderson, who is a cis woman, was asked "Were you drawing on any sources when you were researching this? Or was it purely out of your imagination?", to which she replied "Oh, it's my imagination, it's all fiction.". She also says that she wanted to use it as a metaphor for a study of marriage, calling transition the "ultimate betrayal". [1]


Roy Applewood (Tom Wilkinson), after fainting on the night of 25th marriage anniversary, shocks his wife Irma (Jessica Lange) by revealing plans to transition into being out as a woman and change her name to Ruth. While Ruth tries to keep the family together, Irma's initial reaction is to separate from her. Patty Ann (Hayden Panettiere), their daughter, is more accepting, but Wayne (Joseph Sikora), their son, struggles with the transition. He mocks Ruth after receiving an explanation letter.

The movie follows the fictious story of the character Ruth in the depiction of her transition. She buys women's clothes, wears earrings and puts on perfume. She finds graffiti on her truck "You are not normal". Her mother decides not to tell her father. She is kicked out of church choir. Irma finds Ruth in the barn with a gun to her head. She invites her back home. Her teen daughter just got her period and doesn't like being a girl. Son Wayne comes home for Thanksgiving and ends up in a fist fight with Ruth. The son yells obscenities at her and then cries in her arms. After a year passes she goes in for surgery with full support of Irma.

Ruth faces ostracism at church and at work. She finds understanding from her boss, Frank, but not from her minister. In the end, Irma discovers that love transcends gender and the family survives.

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