Review: ‘Natural Disorder’

Hot Docs 2016

2 mins read

Natural Disorder
(Denmark/Netherlands/Norway, 97 min.)
Dir. Christian Sønderby Jepsen
Programme: Artscapes (North American Premiere)


Jacob Nossell mounts an ambitious production within Natural Disorder, but it turns into a head-scratcher rather than a mind-blower. The film depicts Nossell’s effort to stage an innovative first-person play about his experience growing up with cerebral palsy and challenge theatregoers’ conceptions of normalcy by putting his own growth with disabilities at centre stage. If there’s any coherence to the stage production, though, Natural Disorder doesn’t show it.

Nossell’s play comes off as a whiny, vulgar, self-deprecating Robert Lepage wannabe that aims to make viewers uncomfortable for the artist’s own fulfillment. The production has obvious merits in its subject matter as Nossell uses his journey to contemplate if parents expecting a child should consider having the baby if they know it will experience a life with physical or mental disabilities. When Nossell confronts his own right to life, Natural Disorder is frank and affecting.

The film often lacks focus, though, and one doesn’t get sense of the director’s vision as mish-mashes of poetry mix with random CGI sequences that liken abortion to a video game. It’s provocative, for sure, but it’s also all over the map.

More successful are director Christian Sønderby Jepsen’s efforts at capturing gross acts of ignorance, awkwardness, and political (in)correctness as Nossell interviews strangers about what it means to be normal. Similarly, the doc objectively details Nossell’s experience with doctors to explore normalcy from clinical and philosophical perspectives. If only the play could display as much sobriety!

Natural Disorder screens:
-Friday, April 29 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 1:00 PM
-Sunday, May 1 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10:00 AM
-Saturday, May 7 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10:30 AM


Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more information.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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