The Reel Review

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A couple of British schoolboys experiencing their LGBTQ sexual awakening must learn to navigate their evolving romance as well as their relationships with friends and family, in this coming-of-age romantic drama series on Netflix. British author Alice Oseman based the series on her five-part young adult comic book series.

Joe Locke and Kit Connor in Heartstopper.

Heartstopper is without a doubt the most heartwarming series of 2022, a veritable diabetic coma of sugary sweetness that is the feel good, down-to-earth antidote to HBO’s wildly over the top juggernaut, Euphoria. The two shows could not be more different. There are no drugs, sex or nudity in Heartstopper – only lots of romantic same-sex kissing, hugs and hand holding.

That’s not to say the story is unrealistic – the series deftly handles such issues as homophobia, stereotyping and bullying. The two charming leads – newcomer Joe Locke as the nerdy, openly gay Charlie and Kit Connor (Rocketman, Little Joe) as the closeted, rugby-playing Nick – have tons of onscreen chemistry. And the terrific ensemble cast includes Yasmin Finney (whose also transgender in real life), William Gao and Tobie Donovan, with Oscar-winner Olivia Colman even appearing from time to time as Nick’s mom.

Yasmin Finney and William Gao in Heartstopper.

Not surprisingly, there are moments where the teen drama gets really tedious (as teen dramas tend to do) and Oseman’s trademark animated birds, butterflies and maple leaves – to illustrate that a character is feeling all a flutter romantically – while cute for fans of her comic books, does feel gimmicky after a while. But under the helm of director Euros Lyn (Doctor Who, Dream Horse), the incorporation of text messaging and a score filled with current, upbeat pop tunes gives a refreshing touch of modernism to this very old-fashioned teen melodrama. Like candy sprinkles on cupcakes, heart tugging moments are scattered generously throughout the eight half-hour episodes, culminating in a tearjerker of a finalé with Colman that is the happy ending every gay teenager in love deserves.

REEL FACTS

• Joe Locke beat out 10,000 actors to score his acting debut in the role of Charlie in Heartstopper.

Heartstopper was filmed in creator Alice Oseman’s hometown of Kent, England.

Joe Locke, Kit Connor and show creator Alice Oseman in Episode 8 of Heartstopper.

• In the eighth and final episode, Heartstopper creator Alice Oseman has a very brief cameo in the scene on the train.

 

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