Heartstopper review – perhaps the most beautiful TV show | Television & radio

Hearthstopper (Netflix) may not quite live up to the dramatic promise of its title, but this adorable teen romance is heartwarming to say the least. Adapted by writer Alice Oseman from her graphic novel series of the same name, it follows 14-year-old Charlie as he develops a crush on popular rugby player Nick, after they bond over each other. it is appropriate or not to do your homework on the way to math. He’s incredibly soft and wholesome, and by the end of his zippy eight episodes, he leaves feeling like the recipient of a solid hug.

Charlie is already out of school and bullied as a result, but seems to have settled into a supportive group of friends who enjoy their movie nights and DM each other a lot. (There are a lot of on-screen messages in there, and watching the characters write, delete, rewrite, and delete their responses again is extremely effective.) Charlie has some kind of secret boyfriend, Ben, who meets him at the library. at the break, but who picks on him when someone else is around. When Ben goes from treating him coldly to getting a girlfriend and then putting him down when they’re together, Nick comes to the rescue and their friendship slowly turns into something else.

It’s so charming. It nods to its graphic novel origins with animated moments, especially when emotions run high. The hands almost touch; cartoon lightning crackles between them. Charlie’s friend Elle wonders if she has feelings for their other friend, Tao, and hearts appear in the air. It looks like Hollyoaks with an art school twist. There are minor dramas among Charlie’s friends, but mostly it’s about Charlie and Nick. Adults are virtually non-existent save for the odd cameo of a parent and Stephen Fry, whose voice appears as the headmaster speaking above the Tannoy.

I’m not sure who the target audience is. It certainly seems aimed at a young audience, and if teenagers are watching Euphoria now, it feels more like a throwback to the Byker Grove/Grange Hill days. There are double dates with milkshakes and lots of meaningful hugs. But it also has a modern sophistication, with its emotionally articulate protagonists having a surprisingly mature understanding of sexuality as a spectrum. An exploration of bisexuality, for example, is handled with care, though it helps that in this case Olivia Colman is the understanding mother, a role that suits her just fine. Charlie joins the rugby team, partly to pursue his crush on Nick, but also to protest the idea that he won’t be good since he’s supposed to be some type of gay boy.

“Wow, being a teenager is terrible,” the caring art teacher says, and after watching the episode about a rich kid’s 16th birthday party, few would be inclined to disagree. But the truth is, in this world, being a teenager doesn’t seem so bad. The adults are adorable, the siblings are friendly, and most of the kids are quite nice. It’s not entirely a rainbow-colored paradise – there’s some homophobia, mostly out of lack of understanding and/or driven by curiosity, and Ben’s self-loathing finds poor release in his treatment of Charlie. Most of the time, however, Charlie’s friends, including a pair of old soul lesbians whose goal seems to be to help everyone become more comfortable with who they are, give him all the support. which he needs.

For this old cynic, such wholesomeness is a bit difficult to adapt to, and I’m certainly not the audience its creators had in mind. But by the time I’ve finished Heartstopper, I understand its appeal. It’s a comic book fantasy about LGBTQ+ teens, and as such it softens all the hard edges and amps up the sweetness of romance at its core. There is something utterly soothing about spending time with him.

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