Netflix’s new series “Heartstopper” is conventional but cute
Netflix’s “Heartstopper,” based on Alice Oseman’s hit Webtoon of the same name, makes room for LGBTQ+ rom coms, a genre notorious for its heteronormativity. The charming teen show is fun for the whole family— the characters are allowed to really act their age, setting it apart from other teen dramas like HBO’s “Euphoria.” The story is short and sweet, but occasionally falls into the common clichés of the genre.
When the series starts, 14 year-old Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) appears trapped in a secret relationship with fellow student Ben Hope (Sebastian Croft). Charlie has been out for a while now and is recovering from a year of homophobic bullying at the hands of his classmates. Upon discovering Ben also has a girlfriend, Charlie decides to break it off and Ben fights back. He’s saved by the school’s star rugby player Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). Charlie begins to crush on Nick. The two grow closer and Nick wrestles with his sexuality and growing affection for Charlie. Charlie must also deal with additional drama involving his existing friends Tao Xu (William Gao), Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney), and Isaac (Tobie Donovan). Tao struggles to deal with Charlie’s friendship with Nick, as he feels like he’s abandoning their core group of friends.
The show rushes to establish all these complicated dynamics in the first episode, but the series finds its footing in the second and its relatively smooth sailing from then on.
As it’s based on a webcomic, the series incorporates animated elements that raise the stakes in emotional scenes. In a particularly sweet moment, Nick lies next to Charlie, who fell asleep during a movie. Charlie’s open hand sits by Nick’s, and hand-drawn lightning bolts and sparks crackle between them as Nick begins to realize his feelings for Charlie.
Kit Connor plays Nick with a brilliant sensitivity. When searching the Internet for answers to his questions about his sexuality, his eyes’ frantic movements give away all the fear he feels as he begins to discover himself. And when he hugs Charlie after their movie night, his eyes betray the hesitancy he feels.
Outside of Nick’s internal struggles, the show is surprisingly low on drama. The homophobia characters experience never escalates beyond taunts and doesn’t linger for too long. Instead, the show chooses to focus on the happier parts of the teenage experience: double dates with milkshakes, picnics and holding hands at the arcade.
In this way it’s a typical romantic comedy and starts to fall into the tropes fundamental to the genre. Visually, there’s little outside the occasional animation that differentiates it from the many other teen romances Netflix manufactures. It’s bright and bubbly, much like Netflix’s 2018 teen hit, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.”
Overall, “Heartstopper” is a cute rom com without much important to say. Regardless, fans of the genre will appreciate the new perspective “Heartstopper '' contributes and the show provides important LGBTQ+ representation in a genre that severely lacks it.
Josey Merolli. Hey, I'm Josey (she/her) and I'm entertainment editor! More »