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‘Heartstopper’ Review: Netflix’s Transcendent Gay Rom-Com Delivers Perfect First Season

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Not a crush, not an infatuation, but full, throbbing, throbbing, every nerve in your body tingling, capital “L” Love? Whether you’ve forgotten that feeling, are currently feeling it, or even have never felt it before, you’ll be imbued with that raw emotion in almost every image from Netflix’s Transcendence. Heart strokeadapted from Alice Oseman’s graphic novels of the same name.

Pushing back on the hyperbolic (but entirely appropriate) praise for now, a little about the plot. Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) is a gay student out of an English boys’ school who is stuck in a dead-end romance with a closeted boy who doesn’t even seem to like him. He’s pretty much resigned to never finding true, honest love when he’s assigned an office next to Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), a college student a year his senior.

At first, Charlie and Nick couldn’t seem less alike. Charlie is a nerdy outcast who enjoys playing drums and watching bad movies with his friends. Nick is a popular rugby player that everyone loves, is actually invited to parties, and seems to have it all. But by chance the two form an immediate bond, which leads to Nick – after seeing that Charlie can actually run quite fast – asking the young boy to play rugby. And to sweeten the deal, Nick offers to train her in the sport.

You can probably see where this is going, with the major complication of: Nick is apparently straight. Does Charlie have yet another impossible crush? Or is there something more he feels about Nick?

crush charlie and nick
Picture: Netflix

Locke and Connor, above all, are perfect in the roles. Their chemistry is off the charts. Every ounce of dialogue is infused with sentiment, from deep conversations about life and love to simple exchanges of the word “hi,” a signature riff that resonates and takes on different meanings throughout the series. Without this key duo, the series would not work. Luckily, they do, and in the best romantic comedy tradition, you’ll find yourself encouraging them to figure things out and come together from the first frames. And while Connor has a long career behind him (at just 18), including a role on HBO Its dark materials, Locke is a complete newcomer. Instead of disaster, it works to the show’s advantage, with Locke’s nervous, uncomfortable energy gelling perfectly with Connor’s wide-eyed confidence. At least, before the two start switching roles, for reasons too full of spoilers to mention here.

Beyond the two main characters, the world Oseman has created, along with director Euros Lyn, is populated by a whole host of adorable cinnamon puppies that you’ll want to hug until they get together. turn into mush. Charlie’s group of friends includes Tao (William Gao), an uber-nerd who misses his friend Elle (Yasmin Finney), a trans girl who transferred to her accompanying girls’ school. Tao, however, is so focused on the big changes happening in his group that he may not realize that he and Elle are more interested in each other than just being friends. At the girls’ school are Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell), two lesbians of some sort who befriend Elle and realize that even in a generally tolerant atmosphere, there are still complications.

And even further around the edges, each character gets softness, likability, and depth; of a childhood friend in love with Nick named Imogen (Rhea Norwood); to Charlie’s sister, Tori (Jenny Walser), who hilariously shows up at random times to offer advice and sip her ever-present drink; to the grumpy – but helpful – art teacher Mr. Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade), who may have been before where Charlie is now.

favorite her and tao
Picture: Netflix

Part of what makes Heart stroke works so well is, surely, the trust and kindness of the source material, which was a huge hit both on the webtoon platform and later as a graphic novel series. Having these characters both defined and already loved by fans of the series gives it a leg up on the competition. But we’ve seen a lot of popular source material crash and burn when translated on TV, and especially when it comes to manga or anime-style source material on Netflix.

This is not the case with Heart stroke. Aside from the characters and the plot, which treats its LGBTQIA+ teenage stories both frankly and gently, the pacing of the series is also perfect. At eight half-hour episodes, it practically flies; but works both as a four-hour binge or episodically. Every character’s story, every relationship is perfectly arced through the season, while leaving plenty of room for growth and exploration in a potential Season 2. It’s a rarity in any medium, and jaw-dropping that Oseman made it work his first outing at bat as a television writer.

And then there are the visuals. Heart stroke both in appearance and material is like the halfway point between Skins (the UK version) and Euphoria, without the gritty reality of the former, nor the pretentiousness and nihilism of the latter. The camera dances, moves and follows the characters as they make their way through what seems like a realistic England – until it is covered in a magical snowfall, the characters visit a milkshake shop that seems to have arisen from fairyland, where a rainstorm leads to an opportunity for moments straight out of the best of fanfic. The cinematography is also equally stunning, and often on the nose is the best way; like when a bowling alley is ostensibly imbued with bisexual lighting, or a party radiates lights behind a key kiss that not-so-subtly recalls the Pride flag rainbow.

tara and darcy crush
Picture: Netflix

Heart stroke is also one of the few mediums that aims to take specific designs to the comic book page, put them on screen, and then make that idea work. While films like Ang Lee’s Pontoon or Scott Pilgrim vs the World are more open about their comic book backgrounds, Heart stroke deploys light animations only when absolutely necessary. Split-screen conversations are separated by a comic-style white border. Someone almost touches the hand of the person they love and electricity crackles between their palms. A look of secret love is accompanied by hearts coming out of the person’s head. And everywhere, tiny birds, leaves and other elements of nature draw your gaze to the frame or emphasize how a character feels. Unlike many other attempts at this type of format that outright appeal to comic book audiences with crude commercialism, Heart stroke celebrates its origins, but makes them work for the spectacle we watch on screen, rather than distracting it.

More importantly, though, it’s one of the most epic and romantic TV shows ever made. I realize that too sounds like hyperbole, but each episode is built like its own mini-romance, leading up to at least one moment that will blow your heart away. Most TV shows barely reach those heights, but to nail those feelings, every episode, in a series that celebrates the love of LGBTQIA+ teens both positively and definitively, is nothing short of a miracle. . It’s not the kind of show where they kiss for a second and call it a day. They are gay, lesbian and other romances portrayed on screen entirely and without prevarication. And not only that, they are played by teenagers who watch like teenagers. It’s not your CW-style adult 25s playing 15s and 16s. earphone feels real, raw and lived in, even with the visual flights of fancy. At a time when we are still seeing harmful tropes in major TV shows, or some sort of one-in/one-out rule for LGBTQIA+ couples, Heart stroke doesn’t just buck trends; he reinvents them.

To go a little further, even if it does not seem to have the pretension to do anything more than to present these wonderful, adorable, often wacky relationships, Heart stroke feels like an important moment in television history. It’s a show that isn’t shy about representing LGBTQIA+ relationships, but also avoids profanity (there are a hurtful insult or two thrown around before they’re quickly dealt with) and doesn’t venture into situations sexual. Which means it’s a perfect series for the whole family to watch. And whether you’re a teenager discovering or experiencing your sexuality for the first time, a parent trying to figure out what their child is going through, or a viewer enjoying television that broadens your horizons, Heart stroke welcome all.

And then, going back, basically (no pun intended), it’s a serious adventure that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure, with a few twists and delicious surprises along the way. If anything, the only thing wrong with it Heart stroke is its name: rather than stopping your heart, this perfect first season will make it beat again.

Heart stroke premieres April 22 on Netflix.

where to watch Heart stroke

New York Post

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