Heartstopper or the love story between Charlie and Nick offers a ray of sunshine and lightness while dealing with delicate themes.
What is Heartstopper? Charlie (Joe Locke), 15, is a high school student made up entirely of boys, where he was bullied the year before he came out. Shy and reserved, he has a secret romantic relationship with Ben (Sebastian Croft), who has not come out of the closet and ignores him in public. During a course, he is assigned as study partner Nick (Kit Connor), star of the hyper-popular and confident rugby team. The two boys could not be more different, and yet they immediately become inseparable friends. The problem is that Charlie is in love with Nick. who is straight. Undoubtedly. Well, obviously …
In 2016, Alice Oseman created the webcomic Cardiac arrest, from which she was to draw a graphic novel two years later. The saga, which now has four volumes (the fifth is scheduled for 2023), explores the romantic relationship between two teenagers, Charlie and Nick. And it was Oseman who took charge of the series’ adaptation of Netflix, with a first season of eight episodes. The result could not have been better – from our point of view, but also from the public’s point of view, the series seems to be unanimous. The series has also been renewed for two more seasons.
Oseman’s presence as a screenwriter and executive producer is not anecdotal. She knew how to preserve the essence of her story and expand her universe by giving the secondary protagonists more meaning. We find the tenderness, innocence, friendship, but also the fear and insecurity of its heroes; moreover, the actors physically resemble the characters, which readers will appreciate. But the interest in Cardiac arrest lies less in fidelity to the novels than in the treated themes and the way in which they are approached.
Charlie is a shy teenager, still fragile after the bullying he was subjected to by some high school students because of his homosexuality. He goes to the same establishment as Charlie, but the two boys have never rubbed themselves, they develop in different circles and could not be more opposite. One day, paired up for review by a teacher, they find that they are sitting next to each other. Participation is instantaneous and they become inseparable friends. Aside from Charlie falling madly in love with Nick, though he’s convinced he has no chance: Nick is an athlete, he plays rugby, girls run after him, he’s a role model for testosterone heterosexuality. But the heart has its reasons, which the clichés ignore, and to his amazement, Nick feels emotionally attracted to Charlie.
What is immediately striking is the perfect chemistry between the two main actors. Every sentence is marked by emotions both in deep conversations and in daily banalities, every look or every gesture imbued with tenderness. Without this duo as opposite as complementary, the series would not work so well. If Nick is interpreted by Kit Connor, who is only 18 years old already has a great career behind him (he played the young Elton John in Rocket Man and we saw him in His dark materials), Joe Locke aka Charlie gets his screen debut. And it surprisingly benefits the series, where Locke’s nervous, silly energy merges in an ingenious way with Connor’s confidence.
In addition to the two heroes, Cardiac arrest is filled with a host of lovable supporting characters who gradually move away from the clichés to record their own story. These include Elle (Yasmin Finney), a transsexual teenager who begins her education in a high school made up entirely of girls; his girlfriends Tara and Darcy are dating; Tao (William Gao), Charlie’s best friend; Imogen (Rhea Norwood), who is in love with Nick; the benevolent art teacher Mr. Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade), who may have been through the same thing as Charlie …
With Cardiac arrestwe are far from the hypersexualized and flashy approach of Euphoria Where Sex education. It is a story of love and self-seeking made of sweetness, sensitivity and innocence. A refreshing and glowing series, sparkling when small visual pop dots appear on the screen as something out of a graphic novel to highlight the characters’ emotions. It does not prevent him from tackling difficult topics such as bullying at school and its psychological consequences, homophobia both in its violent manifestations and in its daily banality, transphobia, anxiety, questions about himself … But Cardiac arrest is so charming and delicate that it is hard to resist, even for the most cynical. An adorable teenage romance, sweet and comfortable. Oh, and of course it’s an LGBTI romance.
Also read: Love, Victor is much more than an LGBTQ teen drama
We can already hear certain voices being raised, and we regret that Cardiac arrest follows in the footsteps of a series like Love, Victor Where Generation by showing a reality in which heteronormativity is an outdated and narrow concept. Too bad for them, they will ignore this beautiful series, which offers a gay, lesbian, trans and bi representation with total “normalcy”, and above all with empathy, naturalness, respect and sincerity. Regardless of their gender, gender, or attraction, the characters wander through Cardiac arrest without having to ask permission to occupy the space allotted to them.
It’s a teenage show, it’s a gay romance. But beyond its most obvious audience – young people, LGTBI, rom-com fans – Heartstopper is above all a charming story, perhaps the most beautiful and delicate we have seen in a long time. Without ignoring the most painful aspects and issues that characterize the relationship between Nick and Charlie, it is a feel good series that gives a smile and a smile. Appreciating beautiful feelings, beautiful stories of love and friendship does not depend on age, gender or sexual or romantic orientation; it’s just a matter of personal appeal to the romcom genre and sensitivity.
8 sections of about 30 ′.
Available on Netflix