132 Min | Drama | May 2014
IMDB Rating: 8.1
Director: Ryan Murphy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Jonathan Groff, Frank De Julio
The Normal Heart Review: Though firmly set at what was the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in 1980s New York, Kramers powerful play, now finally transformed to the screen is now more poignant and relevant than ever. The Normal Heart, set among the lives of a group of fictional gay New Yorkers the group suddenly finds themselves unwillingly at the center of a medical enemy they cannot see or understand that divides their community and culture on how best to combat it. Meanwhile the straight community acts with indifference, meanwhile all around them friends and loved ones die and more begin to get sick. Kramers main protagonist Ned Weeks loosely based on Kramer himself is the voice of sanity in the newly formed Gay Men’s Health Crisis, while its first president Bruce Niles (Taylor Kitsch based on real activist Paul Popham) is more concerned about sending out invitations to a fund raiser with the word ‘Gay’ on them than he is with forcing the inactive major Ed Koch to attend a meeting with their group.
In The Normal Heart, weeks begins to realize that not only does he have to take on the Government but his own community as well in order to galvanise them into action all the while their friends continue to die and his own lover even gets sick. Sympathetic to their cause is Doctor Brookner (Julia Roberts) who herself comes up against a wall of inaction in her own health authority. Kramer cleverly underlines the dangers of inaction and bureaucracy when facing such an epidemic as well as tackling fearlessly the difficulties the Gay community faced not only from outside but from within. He cleverly does this by writing Weeks his main protagonist as unsympathetically as possible, yet The Normal Heart isn’t a film where you don’t connect with the main character, your with him all the way. So many scenes will touch and frustrate you and Kramer cleverly tackles wider issues in small segments of dialogue, giving so many different people a voice in this piece. This is a man who understands how to cleverly deliver a point without resorting to pathos.
Plaudits too all round for the supporting cast – Especially outstanding is Matt Bomer who plays Felix, Jim Parsons proves he can do much more than he has been given the chance to, to date and even a couple of people from And The Band Played On (B.D Wong and Stephen Spinella) turn up in minor roles. If Kramer had been less willing to point fingers at all those who played their part this piece would have all the weaker. It seems a shame that this has taken so long to come to the screen. But equally it was a reminder that there were those who stood up and did something when others did nothing. The experience of the epidemic up close and personal is not an easy one for many to digest but it would pay to remember that this is still what the epidemic is like now for those people who cannot afford the medication now. That is one The Normal Heart should be seen by everyone, it is the responsible thing to do, it is the right thing to do. All the cast and the crew are worthy of all the awards I hope they so rightfully receive.