It has taken me over a week to write about HBO’s ” The Normal Heart.” Yes, it follows the story of AIDS in the early 1980’s and its spread among the gay community in New York City. At the heart of the deeply layered story, is how diverging and often contentious viewpoints within the gay community sought to unite to fight the disease and advocate for its cure. They did this in a world whose viewpoint was to ignore the gays…and, frankly, let them die. It is also a story about love for a partner or friends when a monster like AIDS attacks when there is no weapon to fight back.
The ferocity to fight the disease fed by such extreme alternatives like abstinence which flew against the free love environment within a large segment gay male society of the time, riveted the story with complexities. The primary character, Ned Weeks ( brilliantly played by Mark Ruffalo) represented the critical gay voice who pummeled his peers with his opinion of what he thought was their reckless sexual promiscuity. This is the voice of the playwright and screenwriter, Larry Kramer, from his early days as an activist in New York during the AIDS crisis.
It is wrenching to watch how fear, denial, hate and differing viewpoints stymied actions that would have addressed and perhaps saved lives. Our nation participated in allowing a genocide of sorts to take over simply because it was happening to a marginalized group.
That is why , it was a marvel that different individuals of various viewpoints in the gay community were able to organize and become the now prominent Gay Men’s Health Crisis organization. There were out and closeted political leaders who would not lend support to them, but despite it all, AIDS brought the gay community together and unite to fight for survival.
The heartbreak of the ravages of disease on loved ones is portrayed with no apology in the film. Ned Weeks and his lover, Felix Turner ( played uncompromisingly by Matt Bomer) brought to life the hellish, descent of the disease and the tempering of love during it.
This is an exceptional film. It is must see for everyone gay or straight. HBO has been replaying it. Make sure you catch it.