Set in New York City , the film chronicles the tenacity of activist and writer, Ned Weeks played by Mark Ruffalo, as he fights to raise awareness about AIDS during that time and the determination he exhibits in organizing the necessary research and help it would take to help those living with the illness at that time considered a life sentence. As the main protagonist, Ruffalo’s character’s prime focus is catching the attention of government leaders as tries to convince them that it is not only a gay disease, it is a human disease.
The summary of the film is summed up in one line by Weeks when he says, “We have to do something – no one else will.” Although the film centers on the growing crisis that “seems to be only happening to gay men,” the movie is a love story and show the passion and commitment between Weeks and his partner played by Matt Bomer as both deliver dramatic and emotional scenes. (synopsis via Examiner)
Humanity’s well proven ability to stare a crisis in the face and pretend it’s actually not happening, despite all the evidence to the contrary, is both an impressive, if ultimately dangerous attribute, and an Achilles Heel of massive proportions.
Whatever the issue – arms trading, the Holocaust, climate change, and most pertinently in this case, the AIDS crisis – there are always a great many people who will resolutely refuse to acknowledge anything is afoot.
Regardless of whether this head in the sand approach is caused by prejudice, blinkered world views or an inability to comprehend the facts at hand, it often takes fearless trailblazers like writer Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) to come crashing in and make the sort of commotion that will make people see that the status quo has no longer been upset, it no longer exists.
You have to be passionate, be willing to be single-minded and disruptive and wear all the venom-coated brickbats that will inevitably come your way.
It isn’t easy being a potential Cassandra – the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy who though possessed of the gift of prophecy was cursed with never being believed – and involved making yourself hugely unpopular.
But as Ned Weeks makes clear in this Ryan Murphy-directed, Larry Kramer-penned AIDS adaptation of the latter’s evocative, awards-winning play of the same name, his reputation matters for little if its denigration saves lives.
And in the opening stages of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s, many lives are being lost as gay men begin falling deathly ill in horrific numbers, while the world watches on, convinced it isn’t as bad as it looks.
Of course it is every bit as bad as it looks, and much, much worse as history records in heart-shattering detail, and Weeks knows he cannot sit by as the Grim Reaper gets a free pass to do as he will with the precious lives of so many people, gay or straight, drug-users or no.
The Normal Heart looks like another dramatic hole-in-one for HBO which has proven with movies like the Emmy Award-winning Behind the Candelabra and Mildred Pierce among many others, that it is the natural home for films with dramatic heft, a salient, well told message and the courage to let the storytelling chips fall where they may.
Its this reputation, and the involvement of Kramer in adapting his own seminal play, that has attracted the likes of Ruffalo, Bomer, along with Julia Roberts, Alfred Molina, Jim Parsons, Jonathan Groff, Taylor Kitsch and B D Wong to this movie which is sure to stir debate even as it profoundly touches the heart and soul.
Just how affecting The Normal Heart will be will be clear on 25 May when it premieres on HBO at 9pm.
And here are some featurettes of interviews with Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Taylor Kitsch …