I watched the HBO film “A Normal Heart” with an especially close eye on these characters. Who they were, who they loved, how they felt. Why? My dad’s brother died of AIDS related complications in 1997. I was only 8, on the cusp of 9, when he passed and I don’t have many memories of him.
While it’s true that the film is largely about the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the government’s unwillingness to help those affected by the disease and just how quickly people were catching and then dying of this disease they termed as “Gay Cancer” since it seemed to only being showing up in the gay community, it’s also a beautiful love story. The lead character Ned Weeks, the on-screen counterpart of the play’s writer Larry Kramer, is played beautifully by Mark Ruffalo. Ned Weeks is a loud mouth, Jewish gay man, and is overcome with the need to do something about all of these deaths in the gay community. He starts the Gay Men’s Health Crisis to spread awareness and try to keep more men from contracting it. Led by an amazing cast, Taylor Kitsch as Bruce Niles, a closeted investment banker who by the film’s end lost 3 lovers to AIDS, Jim Parsons as Tommy Boatwright, the self described “Southern Bitch” who adds humor to a very heavy subject matter, Matt Bomer as Felix Turner, a New York Times journalist and Ned Week’s lover, who eventually succumbs to the disease, and dies in the arms of the love of his life (Ned), the film really packs an emotional punch.
Most of the film is based on real-life events, among the most horrifying is the story of a young man who dies in route to see his mother one final time before AIDS takes his life. When he gets to the hospital, the medical professionals refuse to work on him and leave him to die, and since they refused to do anything with his body for fear of catching AIDS, he is literally put into a garbage bag and thrown into a dumpster.
Aside from those moments where you see just how awful gay men with AIDS were treated in that time period, the film serves as a history lesson for those of my generation and those a little younger, who either weren’t alive during this time period or were too young to really know about it.
The film was beautifully adapted from the play, and it’s very moving. For me especially, since as I stated before I had an uncle who passed away from AIDS related complications. I had no idea how men like him were treated, or the hate and injustice they faced. It gave me a new respect for men like my uncle. I know how deeply my family was affected by his death, but I also remember my family lying about his cause of death because of the shame and stigma associated with AIDS.
The film truly is phenomenal, I urge everyone whose knowledge of life with AIDS is limited to having watched the movie “Rent” to take the time to watch it. It truly changed my heart, and left me both sad and angry that this happened in our country, and it took so long for any real action to be taken by our government.
The film is on demand on HBO, and I highly recommend you watch it.
Happy viewing, reading, and living,