The Normal Heart

Movie review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
The Normal Heart Movie Poster Image
Raw look at HIV/AIDS fight is hard to watch -- but worth it.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 132 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMichael O. February 10, 2019

Gut-wrenchingly honest and unflinching

It's a marvelously acted, heart breaking look at a group of people who are more commonly portrayed as stereotypes.
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... Continue reading
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 Hear... Continue reading

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 this 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. Bomer, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, and Joe Mantello (who played Ned Weeks in the 2011 Broadway revival), to name a few, are all excellent. 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."

Talk to your kids 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

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