HBO’s acclaimed TV movie The Normal Heart, just released to DVD this past August, received two wins and sixteen nominations at this year’s Emmy awards, but many still feel that it was snubbed and when viewing the emotionally powerful film with the spot-on, talented cast, it’s easy to see why. The Normal Heart is easily one of the most heart-wrenching films of 2013.
The film is adapted from the 1985 off-broadway play of the same name about the emergence of the AIDS crisis in the early eighties. It surrounds the hot-tempered Ned Weeks (played by The Avengers star Mark Ruffalo and based on activist Larry Kramer) who, inspired by the loss of a friend, seeks answers and a cure for AIDS with the help of paraplegic polio survivor Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts, inspired by Dr. Linda Laubenstein). As more men become involved in the cause, tensions rise and Weeks’ aggressive approach to activism alienates those sharing his cause and any progress toward a cure is horrifyingly slow as, one by one, the beloved characters contract the virus and die.
Both Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts were nominated for Emmy awards for their roles in this film and both performances are incredible, with Mark Ruffalo’s passionate portrayal of a desperate man in love and in fear, and Julia Roberts playing a helpless but determined doctor who is snubbed by the medical community.
Though the star power that these two well-established leading actors bring to the movie certainly boost its quality, what makes this film truly wonderful is the incredible supporting cast. Four supporting actors were nominated for an Emmy for this film, most notably Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons delivered a beautiful performance, reprising his role of Tommy from the 2011 revival of the original play. The character brings a new layer of depth to the already intense film, embodying at times both a Sheldon Cooper-esque stoicism and powerful emotion. Tommy is another AIDS advocate whose custom is to collect the business cards of his fallen friends in a neatly bound pile in his desk drawer, and though it’s a small, poetic detail, the scene where Tommy breaks down over the ever-growing stack is one of the simplest and most beautiful scenes in the film, and that’s with heavy competition.
As the film goes on and the characters face discrimination and have trouble finding any advocates who are not gay men, their first outside advocate is a lesbian who has lost a close friend to AIDS.
The film is really made by passionate performances, but the script and storyline are captivating, and the characters are inspired by real people and true events. It’s a wonderful film, but keep a tissue box very nearby.
The Normal Heart Trailer