There’s something about British TV shows that makes them just that little bit better than most of their American counterparts. Maybe it’s their inherent charm, their openness to flights of whimsy, their lack of over-the-top melodrama, or maybe it’s just the accents. Obviously, this isn’t always true, but it does seem like the ratio of hits to misses is skewed heavily in the Brits’ favor. Based on a cult hit graphic novel, the latest Netflix hit Heartstopper is another great example of everything our friends across the pond get right with this format.
Year 10 student Charlie (Joe Locke) is a shy, reserved young man, who had been bullied extensively the prior year after his homosexuality was revealed to his all-male schoolmates. As a new year begins, he is assigned to sit next to star rugby player Nick (Kit Connor) in his form class (the UK equivalent of homeroom). Since Nick is friends with many of the same students who picked on him during Year 9, Charlie is understandably hesitant, but he is soon surprised to discover a friendship blossoming between them.
Charlie tells his friends Tao (William Gao), Isaac (Tobie Donovan), and Elle (Yasmin Finney) (who has transferred to the nearby all-girls school after coming out as transgender), and they are skeptical at first, with Tao in particular feeling protective and maybe even a little possessive. As the pair get closer, Charlie can’t help but develop deeper feelings, and so starts trying to determine if they are reciprocated while also starting to accept himself for who he is.
There is no way for a story like this to get around having to deal with some heavy themes, such as homophobia and transphobia, but the show is still awash in the sort of relentlessly happy atmosphere that made Ted Lasso such a feel-good hit. Everyone is well-cast, entirely selling their various relationships and truly making this feel like a believable world. Stylistic flourishes like animated lightning bolts appearing when a pair of hands first touch call-back to the story’s comic book origins while also heightening the emotional impact of smaller moments. Anyone who can remember their first love is bound to get swept up by this charming romance and will be left hoping that we get to revisit these characters again soon. ★★★★★
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor