The Normal Heart Review: a tale to be shared; gripping, moving and thought provoking

Gay! Homosexuals! It’s sad to say but even in 2014 these terms are sort of taboo and life is hardly any better for this major (note, no more minor) community. Imagine what it would have been like in the 20th century. The Normal Heart is about that and especially about an unknown virus that was claiming the life of hundreds of homosexuals across the globe back in 1970s and 80s. And the virus, as we know it today, is AIDS.

The Normal Heart is a soul stirring, emotionally packed, thought rupturing true story of a strongly knit gay community from 1970s/80s and about the ultimate fight for rights, equality, justice, and survival which eventually led to a movement of such a large scale that US Government officially proclaimed the life threatening virus as ‘AIDS’ and funded the research for same.

Directed by widely applauded and acclaimed, Emmy winning director Ryan Murphy who is also the creator of Fox musical comedy-drama Glee, The Normal Heart stars Mark Ruffalo, Matt Boomer, Julia Roberts, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, Joe Mantello, and Jonathan Groff. The movie is based on a play by the same name written by Larry Kramer in 1985.

Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) is a senior member of a gay community and a highly active and energetic gay rights activist. Ned, on a weekend getaway to Fair Islands to celebrate his friend, Craig’s (Jonathan Groff) birthday realizes that something’s not right with otherwise seemingly Craig’s good health. When Ned returns to NYC, he happens to read an article named ‘Rare cancer diagnosed in 41 homosexuals’. He doesn’t waste a minute and meets Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts) who is a strong willed physician; paralyzed courtesy polio. Emma has been seeing patients (gay patients rather) whose immunity system has given up and they are afflicted with symptoms of rare diseases that would otherwise not harm people with normal health. While Ned is seeking Emma’s support in spreading awareness of the rare disease among gay people, Bruce (Taylor Kitsch) rushes into the hospital with Craig and ultimately Craig dies.

Then starts the movement led by Ned and joined by Bruce as President, Tommy (Jim Parsons), Mickey (Joe Mantello) and several other gay rights activists. During the course of time, Ned falls madly in love with Felix Turner (Matt Bomer) who is a journalist at The New York Times. The Normal Heart is about the quest for acceptance of gay men in the society, frustration of thousands of closeted gay men, battle for acceptance of the virus and seeking genuine support and funding from the government, and lastly about depth of love, care and loss between Ned and Felix.

What can I say about the performances! Each and every actor out here has lived beyond the expectations and delivered performances worth awards galore. The actor who amazed me the most is Mark Ruffalo who has played the role of Ned Weeks with absolute determination, panache and belief which reflects in every emotion, every frame and every dialogue. Mark understood that Ned is someone who is angry at everyone and with everything which doesn’t want to fight for equality and rights. He knows that Ned is frustrated, mad, blunt, outspoken, passionate and above all a gem at heart. I personally would like to give Mark a standing ovation for such a true, leal and sincere performance of a gay man when he is no gay in real life.

Roberts continues to amaze me every time. She is so believable as the polio struck self-determined doctor who wants to fight for others. One of my most favorite scene in the movie is when she is addressing a small gathering (rather a gathering of barely 8 people) which has a representative from the city Mayor and; her anger, her frustration, her helplessness, her years of hard work and research is showcased in a manner which reiterates a belief that Roberts is an actor beyond appreciation through just words.

Matt Bomer has won me. I used to be his fan courtesy White Collar but now I am a follower of his acting talent and his willingness to go the extra mile for playing the role of Felix. Bomer had to lose 40lbs to come across as a genuinely AIDS diagnosed patient and he admits that by the end of filming he was actually so terribly weak that he needed assistance to be carried to the scene from his bed on the set.

Jim Parsons and Joe Mantello are icing on the cake in the form of sincere and zealous performances. Parsons is so earnest as Tommy that you will forget him as Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Mantello is an incredible actor and a stamp of approval on the same is a scene (longest scene in terms of duration) in the movie and the scene is a slap on all those who term being gay as a disease, who loathe gays, and probably want every gay person to turn straight.

The Normal Heart is full of scenes that will make you cry, make you empathize with people (especially gay people) and the movie has the potential to make people look at gays as normal beings who find nothing wrong with loving HIM and not a her (and likewise for lesbians).

It’s sad that this movie probably won’t get a release in India. But I would earnestly ask everyone and especially every straight person to watch this.

My recommendation – there are movies that shouldn’t be missed at any cost and The Normal Heart is one such movie. It could make you believe in the existence of gay people a bit more and could eventually make you empathize with them. Mind you, never ever sympathize them. I give 4.5 teaspoon of masala to this heart breaking tale of love and the identification of AIDS.

Read my other reviews here