TV Review: “Heartstopper”

“Heartstopper” delivers the epic queer teenage love story that is much-needed in entertainment.

Adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Alice Oseman, Netflix’s “Heartstopper” delivers the queer youth coming-of-age story I wish I got growing up. Admittedly, I have not read the graphic novel yet, but, after watching the show, it’s definitely on my reading list now.

The show follows Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and Nick Nelson (Kit Conner) as they navigate high school and their newfound romantic connection. As with any teen romance, they endure the trials and tribulations that come with young love, sexuality, and friendship.

Every scene of this show was absolutely stunning, the colors and the lighting had a consistent theme of blue and orange. The set and costume designs matched it perfectly. Throughout the show, there were small elements of animation within the live-action, such as floating leaves and scribbles, that paid homage to the original graphic novel. In addition to these components, the transitions between scenes were also animated as comic panels which completed the tribute to Oseman’s original work. Charlie’s emotions were reflected through the on-screen animation, and the consistent color themes acted as unexpected elements that come together in perfect harmony which parallels Nick and Charlie’s relationship.

The soundtrack also complemented the aura of the show really well. I appreciated how they decided to use the songs from queer artists such as girl in red, Rina Sawayama, and mxmtoon as a way to further their representational reach and support artists that are also part of the LGBTQ+ community. Small details such as these enhanced the viewing experience and gave the show a very unique aesthetic. Aside from adding to the overall ambiance of the show, the themes of the music oftentimes paralleled the themes of the show which added another layer to the storytelling, such as when girl in red’s “girls” played in a scene that alluded to a lesbian relationship or Orla Gartland’s “Why Am I Like This?” played when Nick was questioning his sexuality.

Every element of the show had a purpose, from the colors to the music, and nothing seemed unintentional.

Nick’s exploration of his sexuality could almost be described as universal. The show successfully captured the real-life experiences of growing up queer while still telling the cheesy romance story everyone wishes they could’ve experienced. The representation is phenomenal. Each main character was given a plotline of their own that didn’t feel forced or out of place. It was a breath of fresh air to see queer characters be normalized while still exploring the nuances of the queer experience, both the good and the bad. The show was successful in doing a lot without doing too much.

One of the most interesting and well-done aspects of the show’s representation was through Charlie’s transgender friend Elle (Yasmin Finney). Her story starts off after she has already transitioned, not necessarily making her storyline revolve around her being a transgender individual but also never leaving out the experiences that shaped her life. This type of trans representation is really rare to find, especially in mainstream media. There was no question about her identity as a woman, it was an accepted fact. While some of her struggles stemmed from her experiences as a trans person, her storyline captured multiple aspects of her life, including a romance of her own.

Additionally, there was a certain relatability in the ways Nick and Charlie interacted with each other and with themselves, from the crush-on-a-straight-guy pain to the confused and frustrating state of questioning your sexuality. I think it’s important to point out that this show didn’t feel like it was trying too hard to be relatable, instead, it felt as though they were simply telling a story, one that many people could relate to. The way in which Nick also comes to terms with his sexuality is done beautifully. His exploration was so modern; the frustration, the confusion, and the fear that accompanies this experience felt so raw, and more importantly, relatable.

Every part of the relationship between Charlie and Nick felt organic, from their immediate chemistry to the growth of their romance. Charlie’s past relationship leaves him broken, but Nick is there to pick him up. Every time Nick and Charlie were in a scene together, it was impossible to not smile at their chemistry. The way that Nick reassures Charlie of his love for him makes me, in the best way possible, want to throw myself off a bridge.

On that note, I have only two gripes with the show. The first is the writing. At times the dialogue felt a little awkward and didn’t seem to flow as well as other scenes did. Secondly, watching this show just makes you sad, but a good kind of sad. As someone who is chronically single, there’s nothing more bittersweet than a love story. This type of teenage queer romance isn’t something many LGBTQ+ individuals experience, including me, so while I was rooting for Charlie and Nick to have their happy ending, I was also feeling a little lonely. Consider this your warning: this show will make you look at your love life and think “what am I doing wrong?”

Nevertheless, this show and the representation of LGBTQ+ youth is something much needed in entertainment. While it was kind of obvious this show is tailored towards the teenage audience, that didn’t stop me from enjoying, and crying at, every part of it. If little middle-school-me would have been able to witness such a beautiful and normalized representation of queerness, it would have allowed me to love the part of myself I was conditioned to hate and helped me through the most confusing time in my life. Now as an almost 20-year-old, I can confidently say that this show still means a lot to me. My experiences growing up queer feel validated.

As someone who has enjoyed shows like “Young Royals” and books like “Red, White, and Royal Blue,” “Heartstopper” was a perfect addition to the genre of queer romance. If you love cheesy romantic stories, queer representation, and amazing aesthetics, I would definitely recommend giving this show a watch.

Grade: A
Directed by: Euros Lyn
Starring: Joe Locke, Kit Conner, Yasmin Finney, William Gao
Release date: April 22, 2022

Image courtesy of Netflix

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