Utterly sweet and modern LGBTQI teen romance, with honest performances that will melt your heart.
New Netflix LGBTQI+ series Heartstopper is the sweetest of its kind since Love, Simon.
The UK coming of age tale is based on the comic and graphic novel by Alice Oseman, who has also written the screenplay. Produced by British – Australian company See-Saw Films, the 8 part series retains its animated origins with flourishes of hearts, birds, leaves and music notes whenever hearts are melting.
At the centre of the story is Charlie (Joe Locke) an openly gay, but shy, high school student who finds himself drawn to the school’s ‘rugby king’ Nick (Kit Connor) a gentle and understanding classmate.
Joe’s friends, ally Tao (William Gao) and Tobie (Isaac Henderson) are protective of their young friend while trans friend Elle (Yasmin Finney) is starting her new life at the local girl’s school. There she befriends Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) who share news that they are also going out together.
But Charlie is on the rebound from the closeted Ben (Sebastian Croft) when he begins to fall for Nick, a relationship which blossoms across the boy meets boy / boys become friends / boys fall in love arc of the series. There are furtive glances, stolen kisses, secret touches and discovery as Nick, in particular, finds himself drawn to his new friend.
While Charlie is at desperate risk of having his heart broken, he’s also mature for his years in a hotbed of potential bullying. Thankfully there’s a sympathetic gay art teacher (Fisayo Akinade) and a big sister Tori (Jenny Walser) on hand with varying degrees of support -contrasting with the almost absent parents in this series (save for a minor role by the wonderful Olivia Coleman).
In this very modern series -where the kids have a clear handle on homophobic behaviour- director Euros Lyn cleverly uses SMS to illustrate characters express true feelings, even if they delete messages as quickly as they write them down.
The use of sparing animation keeps the story light and the production designers have gone all out to inject candy colour at every opportunity.
The idea of gay teen having a crush on the straight guy is hardly new (indeed Handsome Devil even includes football and music) but what makes this sing are the performances and in particular the arc for Nick, which I won’t spoil.
Lead Joe Locke irresitably sweet and underplaying the role of Charlie, matched by Kit Connor despite him not physically looking like much of a rugby king at all. And William Gao deserves a mention for his hair alone.
There are choices that are very 2022 and which might surprise an older LGBTQI audience, whilst speaking honestly to a younger and informed teen audience. Recommended.
Heartstopper is now screening on Netflix.