The Normal Heart
The Normal Heart Poster.jpeg
Television release poster
Based onThe Normal Heart
by Larry Kramer
Screenplay byLarry Kramer
Directed byRyan Murphy
Music byCliff Martinez
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
ProducerScott Ferguson
CinematographyDaniel Moder
EditorAdam Penn
Running time132 minutes
Production companies
Original release
  • May 25, 2014 (2014-05-25)

The Normal Heart is a 2014 American television drama film directed by Ryan Murphy and written by Larry Kramer, based on his 1985 play of the same name. The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Joe Mantello, Jonathan Groff, and Julia Roberts.

The film depicts the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City between 1981 and 1984, as seen through the eyes of writer/activist Ned Weeks (Ruffalo), the founder of a prominent HIV advocacy group. Weeks prefers public confrontations to the calmer, more private strategies favored by his associates, friends, and closeted lover Felix Turner (Bomer). Their differences of opinion lead to arguments that threaten to undermine their shared goals.

It was released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 26, 2014.[1]


It is summer of 1981. Ned (Alexander) Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) is an openly gay writer from New York City who travels to Fire Island via Long Island to celebrate the birthday of his friend Craig Donner (Jonathan Groff) at a beach house. Other friends in attendance include Mickey Marcus (Joe Mantello) and the charismatic Bruce Niles (Taylor Kitsch), who has recently begun dating Craig, who is young and appears to be in good health. While walking on the beach, however, Craig feels dizzy and collapses. Later, when blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, Craig begins to cough repeatedly.

While traveling back to New York City, Ned reads an article in the New York Times titled "Rare Cancer Diagnosed in 41 Homosexuals". Back in the city, he visits the offices of Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts), a physician who has seen many patients afflicted with symptoms of rare diseases that normally would be harmless unless their immune systems had been compromised. All of these cases seem to be appearing in gay men. In the waiting room, Ned meets Sanford (Stephen Spinella), a patient whose face and hands are marked with skin lesions caused by Kaposi's sarcoma, a rare cancer. Brookner examines Ned, but finds that he does not have the symptoms of this disease. She asks Ned to help her raise awareness of this disease within the gay community.

Craig suddenly suffers violent convulsions and is rushed to the hospital with Ned, Mickey, and Bruce where he is later pronounced dead. Brookner recognizes Bruce, noting that he is the former boyfriend of another one of her patients who recently died. Ned organizes a gathering at his home where many local gay men are invited to hear Brookner share information about the disease. Though she lacks conclusive evidence, she states her belief that the illness is sexually transmissible and that they should all avoid having sex for the time being to prevent new transmissions. Most attendees question her belief. She notes that few medical journals appear interested in publishing anything on this disease which is mostly affecting homosexual men. Ned announces that he wants to start an organization to spread information about the disease and provide services to those who have been infected.

Brookner and Ned visit a local hospital where several of her sick patients are in critical condition with an illness that is now being referred to as gay-related immune deficiency (GRID). They stay in rooms that many hospital staff are afraid to enter for fear of contracting the disease. Ned, Bruce, Mickey, and several other friends including Tommy Boatwright (Jim Parsons) establish a community organization called Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC). The organization sponsors fundraisers for research on the disease now called AIDS and establishes a telephone hotline, counseling, and other services. Over Ned's objections, they elect Bruce their president. Ned arranges for his older brother, lawyer Ben Weeks (Alfred Molina), to provide free legal advice to the GMHC. The two brothers are close, but there remains an underlying tension over Ben's lack of understanding of Ned's sexuality. Ned contacts gay New York Times reporter Felix Turner (Matt Bomer), hoping that he can use his media connections to publish more stories about the unfolding health crisis. Felix laments that it is difficult getting any mainstream newspapers to report much information on AIDS. After Felix recalls that he and Ned had a sexual tryst at a gay bathhouse, the two begin a romantic relationship.

The disease continues to spread and claim lives. Bruce attempts to travel to Phoenix with his boyfriend Albert (Finn Wittrock), who is dying, so that Albert can see his mother one more time. The airline refuses at first to fly the plane with sick Albert on board. When they do eventually get to Phoenix, Albert dies following a period of dementia. The hospital doctors refuse to examine him and issue a death certificate, and instead throw him out with the garbage while Bruce bribes a funeral home to cremate his body without a death certificate.

Brookner attempts to obtain grant money to continue researching AIDS, but her efforts are rejected by government officials who do not see AIDS as a priority. Ned, meanwhile, is kicked out of GMHC for his combative and aggressive tactics to promote awareness of AIDS, which is causing tension within the group.

Felix comes down with symptoms and his body wastes away as the disease claims his life. Felix arranges for a will with the help of Ben, and leaves everything he has to Ned. The two state their love for one another at the hospital before Felix dies. A few days later, Ned visits his alma mater, Yale University, where a Gay Week is being hosted by the students. He admires how young men and women are able to dance with one another openly, without fear of discrimination.

Information is displayed about the growing number of people developing AIDS, as Tommy's Rolodex pile (the contact info of his friends who have died from AIDS) grows bigger, eventually including Bruce Niles.



In August 2011, Ryan Murphy said in an interview with Deadline Hollywood that he had optioned The Normal Heart and intended to produce the film version, starring Mark Ruffalo "and maybe Julia Roberts".[5] The Hollywood Reporter confirmed the film news in January 2012, adding Alec Baldwin, Matt Bomer, and Jim Parsons to the previously announced cast.[6] In March 2013, Taylor Kitsch joined the cast.[7] In April 2013, the casting of actors Jonathan Groff and Joe Mantello was announced.[8] In May 2013, it was announced that Alfred Molina would be replacing Alec Baldwin.[9] Both Parsons and Mantello had starred in the 2011 Broadway revival, although Parsons was the only actor to reprise his role.

Murphy stated that he created this film, despite the derivative play being made in the 1980s, due to fears that people born after the 1980s AIDS crisis would not remember its lessons.[10] The main producers were HBO & Plan B (the Brad Pitt company).


Principal photography began on June 8, 2013 in New York City, New York.[11] On July 12, the crew was spotted shooting the film in Little Italy.[12] During the course of filming, production was temporarily suspended to allow some of the actors to change their physical appearances; Bomer lost 40 pounds to show the ravages of AIDS on his character.[13]


The Normal Heart debuted on HBO on May 25, 2014 after an earlier theatrical screening at the Inside Out Film and Video Festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on May 23, 2014.[14]

Home media

The Normal Heart was released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 26, 2014.[15]


Critical response

The film received widespread critical acclaim, with praise for Kramer's screenplay, its drama, moral messages, production values, and the performances of the cast.[16] Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 94% based on 50 reviews, with an average score of 7.72/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Thanks to Emmy-worthy performances from a reputable cast, The Normal Heart is not only a powerful, heartbreaking drama, but also a vital document of events leading up to and through the early AIDS crisis."[17] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 85 out of 100, based on 33 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[18]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone awarded the film with a 3.5/4 and praised the film, "Written, directed and acted with a passion that radiates off the screen, The Normal Heart is drama at its most incendiary, a blunt instrument that is also poetic and profound. As gay men in crisis, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons and Joe Mantello (who played Ned onstage) all excel. But it's Kramer, still raging over what's not being done, who tears at your heart."[19] Ellen Gray of the Philadelphia Daily News commended "And though the supporting cast members are all good (Parsons particularly so), it's Kramer's fury, channeled through Ruffalo's manic energy as the writer's alter-ego Ned Weeks, that keeps The Normal Heart beating and preserves a horrific bit of all too recent history not in amber, but in anger."[20]

Murphy's direction received mixed reviews from critics. Brian Lowry of Variety criticized Murphy's direction and the story's transition from stage to screen: "Murphy being Murphy, he can't resist throwing in moments that drift toward an American Horror Story vibe, such as a subway sequence where dramatic lighting flashes in and out on a lesion-pocked face. The translation from stage to screen also yields speeches that probably played better live, although the director has for the most part opened up the Tony-winning material into movie form," although he particularly hailed The Normal Heart as "a character-oriented drama with theatrical talent and values that would face challenges finding much purchase at the modern-day multiplex. The result is a movie, for mostly better and sometimes worse, that wears its heart on its sleeve."[21] Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post also criticized Murphy's direction, writing: "But if you do watch the film, just be aware that every few minutes you may wish that someone — anyone — other than Murphy had directed it. Murphy is a self-indulgent director and not particularly rigorous or disciplined. He serves his own muse, not necessarily the needs of the material, and though it's a classic, Kramer's play is also unwieldy and outright clumsy at time."[22]

TVLine named Bomer the "Performer of the Week" for his performance.[23]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Critics' Choice Television Awards June 19, 2014 Best Movie Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Mark Ruffalo, Alexis Martin Woodall and Scott Ferguson Won
Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Matt Bomer Won
Joe Mantello Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Julia Roberts Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards August 25, 2014 Outstanding Television Movie Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Mark Ruffalo, Alexis Martin Woodall and Scott Ferguson Won
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Julia Roberts Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Matt Bomer Nominated
Joe Mantello Nominated
Alfred Molina Nominated
Jim Parsons Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Ryan Murphy Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Larry Kramer Nominated
Golden Globe Awards January 11, 2015 Best Miniseries or Television Film Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Mark Ruffalo, Alexis Martin Woodall and Scott Ferguson Nominated
Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film Mark Ruffalo Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film Matt Bomer Won
Producers Guild of America Awards January 24, 2015 Stanley Kramer Award The Normal Heart Won
Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television Ryan Murphy, Dante Di Loreto, Jason Blum, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Mark Ruffalo, Alexis Martin Woodall and Scott Ferguson Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards January 25, 2015 Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Mark Ruffalo Won
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Julia Roberts Nominated

See also


  1. ^ Hetrick, Adam (May 30, 2014). ""The Normal Heart" Sets Blu-Ray and DVD Release". Playbill. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Normal Heart study guide" (PDF). TimeLine Theatre. 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  3. ^ Pond, Steve (June 20, 2014). "Why Mark Ruffalo Didn't Want to Play Larry Kramer in 'The Normal Heart' at First". Reuters. Retrieved June 18, 2020. - Original post at The Wrap
  4. ^ a b c Kramer, Larry (2011). "Please Know". The Normal Heart on Broadway. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  5. ^ Finke, Nikki (August 5, 2011). "EMMYS Q&A: Ryan Murphy About 'Glee'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  6. ^ Kit, Borys (January 20, 2012). "Julia Roberts, Alec Baldwin, Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons to Star in Ryan Murphy's Next Film (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 11, 2012.
  7. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (March 1, 2013). "Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch Join HBO's Ryan Murphy-Directed Movie 'The Normal Heart'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  8. ^ Hibberd, James (April 26, 2013). "Jonathan Groff to play Taylor Kitsch's lover in Ryan Murphy film". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
  9. ^ Ferri, Josh (May 9, 2013). "Larry Kramer Says Ryan Murphy's 'Obsessed' with The Normal Heart; Alfred Molina & Joel Grey Join HBO Film". Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  10. ^ Ulaby, Neda (May 24, 2014). "'Normal Heart' Teaches New Generation About The Early Years Of AIDS". National Public Radio. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  11. ^ "'The Normal Heart', starring Julia Roberts, Matt Bomer, & Mark Ruffalo, begins filming in NYC this week". June 4, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  12. ^ "The Normal Heart' Resumes Filming in Little Italy Today". July 12, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  13. ^ "Matt Bomer on 'The Normal Heart' and Unconditional Love".
  14. ^ "The Normal Heart to premiere at Inside Out" Archived May 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Xtra!. May 5, 2014.
  15. ^ Hetrick, Adam (May 30, 2014). ""The Normal Heart" Sets Blu-Ray and DVD Release". Playbill. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  16. ^ Miller, Bruce. "Review: Matt Bomer, Mark Ruffalo shine in 'Normal Heart'". The Boston Globe. The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
  17. ^ "The Normal Heart (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  18. ^ "The Normal Heart". Metacritic. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  19. ^ Travers, Peter (May 22, 2014). "'The Normal Heart' Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  20. ^ Gray, Ellen (May 23, 2014). "'Gang Related,' 'The Normal Heart' premiere". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  21. ^ Lowry, Brian (May 21, 2014). "'The Normal Heart' TV movie review on HBO". Variety. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  22. ^ Ryan, Maureen (May 23, 2014). "'The Normal Heart' Review: Great Performances Anchor An Uneven Film". HuffPost. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  23. ^ "TVLine's Performer of the Week: Matt Bomer". TVLine. May 31, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014.