Inside Out

Unusually Normal Review: Meet Canada’s Gayest Family

Inside Out 2024

6 mins read

Unusually Normal
(Canada, 100 min.)
Dir. Colette Johnson-Vosberg
Programme: Icons, World Premiere


Unusually Normal is an upbeat cinematic introduction to Canada’s Gayest Family. First introduced to audiences via social media, one would be hard pressed to find a more open-hearted group of exuberant individuals than the Moore-Ford family. As this doc charts their personal ups and downs, their candour is certain to win over audiences.

Besides matriarch Linda Ford, and her wife Janice Moore, Unusually Normal focuses on Linda’s daughter Karen and her spouse Cathy Lebel, together with Karen’s former partner Anna Lamanna and wife Tracey Peters. This means that the granddaughter of the family, Madison, has four mothers. All of this is met with a great deal of joy and celebratory laughter in the film. Frankly it’s delightful.

As the film establishes the individuals and their relationships, it cleverly builds a sense of the dynamics of a typical family. There’s plenty of affection and support, but there’s also a lot of teasing and a modicum of bickering—sounds pretty conventional, doesn’t it? Comprising three generations and seven women, all lesbians, what’s typical in this family playfully turns the whole concept of normalcy on its head. Director Colette Johnson-Vosberg takes the most basic elements of the documentary form, primarily the talking heads interview, to intricately involve the viewer with the minutiae of their lives.

Karen named the group Canada’s Gayest Family when she started a Facebook page, and she now manages the TikTok account that figures prominently in the doc. They have roughly 175,000 followers and counting with some videos netting over 5 million likes. Because Karen originally wanted to make a film about the family, there’s a treasure trove of intimate home movie style footage. Perhaps this sets the tone for the sincerity in the interviews and posts that they share on social media. These subjects are so comfortable speaking to the camera after all these years that they can’t help but be completely forthcoming. This is the strength of the film.

When Johnson-Vosberg stepped in as director in 2016 simply due to her experience in the field, she was able to continue this tone with more current interviews. All of the interview footage is deftly interwoven with family photographs and even animation, adding both nostalgia and emotion, respectively. But any personal history, especially when so many people are involved in related circumstances needs a historical context.

The director fills in the former realities of life in the LGBTQ+ community, like the existence of clandestine clubs by blending in archival materials. She is careful to centre this family’s stories as part of her process of building this chronicle as well. The editing in Unusually Normal creates such a tight blend as to fuse the personal with the historical in this film.

Thanks to the older generation, namely Linda and Janice, and their ability to finally open up, the viewer is able to learn vital details of the history of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in Canada. They speak of the difficulties in establishing a communal group simply because everyone was hiding, and they express their fears of being too visible and possibly losing their jobs. Now, the very act of saying some of these things out loud in Unusually Normal is a triumph against adversity. As they themselves put it, they are in their eighties now and have nothing to lose.

In Unusually Normal, the social media journey enhances this sense of liberation. Karen was coaching the two matriarchs to open up on TikTok, to share their stories of their experiences to a much younger audience unfamiliar with that history. Moving from intercutting glimpses of the TikTok footage, the film starts folding it in more and more, eventually opening up the frame to see the instantaneous commentary that was occurring while they were filming. This acts like a mirror of the film viewer’s reaction. Not only is it heartwarming to watch the grandmothers finally feel comfortable enough to open up, but also to watch the loving and supportive reactions that they receive, which encourage them even more.

Because Unusually Normal is able to contrast the stories of the bigotry and hatred these women encountered over the years with the positive reactions they are now receiving via social media, the viewer witnesses a concurrence of mutual support. As these women reach out to others with their stories, the enthusiastic responses – and the love – are heartening. They are sharing their family story for the benefit of others but are also receiving support back again.

Unusually Normal premieres at Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival on May 26 and online beginning May 27.


Barbara is co-host/co-producer of Frameline who joined during its CKLN days. As a freelance writer and film critic for the past 30 years, she has contributed to numerous dailies and magazines including The Globe and Mail, The Canadian Film Encyclopedia, Box Office Magazine as well as to several books. A veteran of the Canadian film industry, Barbara has worked in many key areas including distribution and programming, and has also served on various festival juries

Previous Story

nanekawâsis Review: An Appropriately Artistic Portrait

Next Story

Jim Henson: Idea Man Review – The Man Behind the Muppets

Latest from Blog

0 $0.00