‘The Normal Heart’

Angry and outspoken, Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight, Foxcatcher) confronts politicians, journalists and members of the gay community as HIV/AIDS decimates New York.

A semi-autobiographical narrative from writer Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart follows the virus from its early days as a ‘gay cancer’ as it spreads through a community defined by its sexual liberation and the body-beautiful hedonism of Fire Island. A desperate appeal by Dr. Emma Brookner (Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich, Closer) finds an ear with Weeks who finds his aggressive awareness approach alienates as much as convinces. But the deaths continue and behaviour remains unchanged.

An early Ryan Murphy (Hollywood, Pose), it’s confronting and unflinching as Weeks crusades against indifferent politicians in denial of the crisis. An incendiary Ruffalo, quietly and sensitively supported by Roberts, sees his world fall apart.

Rating: 80%

‘True Detective’ (Season 2)

A confusion of law enforcers results in a barrage of uncertainty and lack of clarity in this grimly shot but convincingly presented narrative of Californian corruption.

Bear with me as some form of a synopsis is presented as characters change and evolve as the eight episodes unfold. In a nutshell – a major rail line is to be built with the inevitably of money to be made during construction and thereafter as far flung places are made more accessible. Cue mobsters, police, politicians, connected businessmen scrambling for a piece of the action. Throw a sex ring into the mix and a cut-throat, dog-eat-dog scenario is established as favours are called in, associates are double-crossed, bodies disposed of.

True Detective is a series where the personal and professional secrets of those involved, both within and outside the law, are explored. And these people have a lot of secrets! But as more and more is revealed of the likes of corrupt cop, Detective Ray Valcoro (Colin Farrell), squeaky clean Officer Paul Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) and somewhere between the two, Detective Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams), so their differences merge and a level of understanding as to who they are develops. The fact all three represent different agencies within the American legal system inevitably creates competitive tension and distrust.

When casino-owning Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) is swindled out of $5 million and with it his investment in the new rail system, he wants to know why. Valcoro is on his payroll. But as bodies mount, the reach of the investigation snowballs and more law enforce departments are called in. But who to trust? As the past and present lives of the team of three unfold and interweave, so several plotlines within True Detective are revealed.

It can be heavy going – and confusing with so many office-based law enforcers spread over several departments – but, with its strong cast, the character-driven narratives are fully engaging. Less impressive is the overly convoluted central plotline. Ultimately, True Detective Season 2, in an attempt to distance itself from its predecessor, is well-made imperfection.

Rating: 66%