Netflix Review Heartstopper

Charlie (Joe Locke) is a teenage boy who come out last year (which as we later learn caused him a great deal of hardship) and at the start of the new school year gets seated next to Nick (Kit Connor), the handsome and popular star-player of the school’s rugby team. Needless to say, Charlie crushes hard. We follow both adolescents and their respective friend groups as they get to know one another and are faced with a plethora of classic teenage issues like peer pressure, uncontrollable infatuations, a crippling lack of confidence or simply finding your place in the pack. I knew virtually nothing of the Netflix show Heartstopper a couple of weeks ago. It was recommended by my sister-in-law, Mel, whom I adore and admire deeply but who is prone to be fond of all things progressive. So, I was somewhat wary going in and when in the first 5’ I was introduced to a gay character, an Asian character, a chubby character and a black trans character, I couldn’t help but think: Oh boy, here we go. Yet another piece of media going out of its way to shove its inclusiveness down our throat to the detriment of actual decent storytelling. Luckily, my initial sentiment turned out to be entirely unwarranted and was promptly replaced by utter admiration. You were right (once again), Mel. This show is undeniably excellent, effortlessly charming and positively heartwarming.

First and foremost, it feels authentic. The situations and conflicts that arise are grounded in reality and the characters seem to accurately portray how actual teenagers would react when faced with these kinds of issues. I can very well imagine similar interactions happening on a regular basis in real life and I can certainly picture many teenagers (and their parents) relating and finding comfort or inspiration from watching a show like this.

Second. There’s a strong script delivered by a solid cast of talented young actors. The characters all get sufficient background and screentime for the viewer to care and they’re all granted a satisfying arc that makes sense and from which further story lines can grow in later seasons. Some characters might initially seem stereotypical, and you expect them to turn out a certain way, but then they end up pleasantly surprising you on various occasions. The trick here is to write them to be consistent in their respective personalities without becoming predictable or one-dimensional, clearly a skill witch screenwriter (and author of the graphic novels of the same name) Alice Oseman has mastered. On top of that you will find that most of the characters are very loveable, indeed. Popular girl, Imogen (Rhea Norwood), Nick’s mom, Sarah (Olivia Coleman), Arts teacher, Mr Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade), Charlie’s sister, Tori (Jenny Walser). Coach Singh (Chetna Pandaya), Mr. Farouk (Nima Taleghani). They’re all fantastic and I can very well see each of them being someone’s favourite character of the whole show.

Finally, despite some of the themes being quite mature and heavy (such as dysfunctional families, psychological trauma, the perils of social media, self-harm, etc.) the tone of the series is deliciously breezy. The romance is tender and sweet (those playful little animations and sound bites of sparks flying whenever their fingers touch ^^). The friendships are warm and deep. They’re all constantly hugging and comforting one another, making cups of tea or just saying what the other person needs to hear. It’s truly fluffy stuff that’ll make your soul smile. Again, some of the more emotional moments are truly powerful and this creates a well-proportioned dynamic in contrast, but the vast majority is clearly dominated by the joyful excitement of butterflies in the basket and the contagious energy of quirky hormonal teenagers in their voyage of self-discovery. Here’s a feel-good show that promotes kindness above all which is refreshing in today’s tv-landscape where horrific drama, brutal violence, and profanity reign supreme. Season two just released and it is equally endearing. Clear your weekend schedule. This is bingeworthy stuff.

Loïc Charlier

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