The Normal Heart



Raw look at HIV/AIDS fight is hard to watch -- but worth it.
  • Review Date: May 26, 2014
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 132 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The overall tone is far from rosy, but the piece explores thought-provoking themes such as sex versus love, promiscuity versus monogamy, bravery, honesty, and discrimination -- and characters talking openly about these issues helps drive messages home to the viewer.

Positive role models

Some characters are more flawed than others, but the core group of activists who work to raise public awareness is a model of selflessness, drive, and mutual friendship.


Characters undergo shocking physical changes over the course of their illnesses, and death is a common theme. There's some blood as well as other visible bodily fluids, but it's realistic rather than excessive.


Sex is simulated but highly realistic, with bare buttocks and occasional frontal nudity. One scene includes a public sex act involving multiple partners, and another takes place in a bathhouse.


Unbleeped strong language includes words such as "f--k," "s--t," and "c--k."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking, sometimes to excess, with brief depictions of recreational drug use.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the thought-provoking The Normal Heart candidly explores the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis with jarring scenes involving illness and death, unbleeped language (including "f--k"), and simulated sex (including full-frontal nudity and sex with multiple partners). There's also some social drinking along with depictions of recreational drug use, but those elements aren't the focus.

Parents say

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What's the story?

Based on Larry Kramer's largely autobiographical play of the same name, THE NORMAL HEART centers on gay writer Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo), who becomes an outspoken activist for the emerging "cancer" that's plaguing the gay community in the early 1980s. While working closely with a doctor (Julia Roberts) to find much-needed answers, Ned founds a grassroots HIV-advocacy group and falls in love with a closeted journalist (Matt Bomer).

Is it any good?


Although The Normal Heart is a work of fiction, the stories it tells about the emerging AIDS crisis in America are honest and heartbreakingly real, thanks to deeply affecting performances from Bomer, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, and Joe Mantello (who played Ned Weeks in the 2011 Broadway revival), to name a few. And whether or not you're gay you'll feel sadness, shock, and anger long after the closing credits have faded to black.

Although it's rightly aimed at mature audiences for its language and sexual content, The Normal Heart does explore a number of important themes -- among them, sex versus love and honesty versus privacy -- that could strike a chord with older teens, especially those who identify as gay or might still be exploring their sexual identities. It's also a sobering reminder of how far the gay community has come in terms of human rights and how much work remains until everyone is considered fully "human."

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the facts behind this fictional drama and the real-life history The Normal Heart depicts. What does it mean to be gay today, and how does that compare to gay culture in 1981? Do any of the characters' attitudes and experiences surprise you? What types of discrimination does the gay community continue to face?

  • Does this movie speak primarily to gay audiences, or does it have relevance to a broader group as well?

  • Is The Normal Heart a rehashing of history or a call to action? What's the message for viewers? How can you tell?

Movie details

DVD release date:August 26, 2014
Cast:Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer
Director:Ryan Murphy
Studio:HBO Home Video
Topics:Friendship, Great boy role models, History, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:132 minutes
MPAA rating:NR
Awards/Honors:Golden Globe

This review of The Normal Heart was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 17 years old Written byMoviefanadick June 29, 2014

Heartbreakingly great film about the start of AIDS.

This is a film about a sexually transmitted disease. Of course there is a lot of sex, which can sometimes be graphic. But, this film is amazing. The Normal Heart centers on a group of gay men claiming that the government is conspiring to kill off all gay men with the new disease AIDS. Mark Ruffalo does a fantastic job which I am certain will earn him an Emmy nomination. Jim Parsons also gives us a phenomenal performance. This HBO TV Movie will break your heart and possibly make you shed a tear or two for our protagonists. The Normal Hearts takes us deep into the lives of gay men that are dying and fighting for their rights. It is a movie worth watching.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written bydarkrosepetals15 June 29, 2015

loved it cried nonstop

I think that this movie will break and rejoin your heart over and over again . As I sat watching this movie I kept thinking what it would be like to being their shoes and feel what they felt. To see loved ones dieing and people making you feel like it was your fault. This movie is not for kids under 13 years if age. Not only because of the sex going on buy because of the confusion and heartache they and you will feel when they find out what's going on in here.Why is this man crying? What's all over his face and back? Mommy why aren't they helping the kind man? These questions no parent wants to answer even if the child is over 13. Watch the movie recommended it to people. Matt and all the other actors make this movie feel like it's happening to you.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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