Those of you who read this blog on regular basis will know that I don’t review that many television shows. When it comes to movies, I’ve got thoughts, opinions, and reviews coming out of my ears, but as far as TV goes, I don’t tend to write that many reviews.
I have to really like (or really dislike) a TV show to start speaking about it on this blog. Plus, watching and writing about movies takes up so much of my time, that I barely have the hours in the day to tackle all of the great telly out there.
But this weekend I watched a brand-new show, which I feel compelled to talk about. The new show is Heartstopper, and it is currently streaming on Netflix.
Created and written by Alice Oseman, and based on the webtoon comic and the graphic novel of the same name, Heartstopper is a British coming-of-age teen drama, which tells an LGBTQ+ story. The series – directed by Euros Lyn – is eight episodes long, each lasting around 30 minutes, and focuses on two high school students: Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson.
In the series, Charlie is a Year 10 student at an all-boys school and he is gay. While he has a good group of friends around him, who look out for him when they can, he is often the target of bullies and his school life has been tumultuous over the past year.
At the beginning of a new term, he is seated next to Year 11 student, and rugby player, Nick Nelson. Although it would seem as if the pair have nothing in common, they soon hit it off and a friendship develops.
Over the course of the series, Charlie and Nick come to realise that they are more than just friends. And as the pair find themselves heading into new relationship territory, they try to figure out what this all means, while learning more about themselves in the process.
Filled with a little bit of heartache, a lot of drama, but plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of heart, Heartstopper is without doubt a superb piece of television. It is an emotional, joyful, and incredibly positive show, which explores the highs and lows of a teen relationship, from a queer perspective.
As with all teen dramas, it isn’t always plain sailing in Heartstopper, but what makes this show so good, is that no matter the hardship or hurdles thrown at the lead characters, the central message is that things will always get better. This is a show which aims to provide an uplifting outcome to the queer journey, and boy, is it so fantastic and refreshing to watch.
I viewed Heartstopper over the period of two days. This was due to various time constraints on my part, and it had nothing to do with the show itself.
Had I been able to, I would have watched all eight episodes in one sitting. Heartstopper is one of those shows which is not only very moreish, but also so damn delightful that I didn’t want to turn it off.
In fact, now that I’ve completed the whole series, I plan to watch it again. There’s simply not enough positivity and light in the world right now, but there is in Heartstopper, and I want to experience it and hold onto it for as long as possible.
I can’t stop thinking about this show. I can’t stop thinking about all the beautiful moments and the sheer appreciation of love that is on display, in all its forms.
I’m not one for emotions, and I’ll openly admit that I’m mostly dead inside, but something about Heartstopper hit me right in my emotional core. It wormed its way into my weak spot, and it now refuses to leave.
Now I know what you’re thinking: Hasn’t the teen drama/romance thing been done countless times before? Well, yes it has – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing again, if something new can be offered up.
And that’s where Heartstopper excels, because this version of the teen romance story offers an LGBTQ+ teen story, which feels fresh, and bold, and very forward-thinking. It tackles difficult subject matter that one might expect from a story such as this (bullying, secrecy, coming out, etc), but makes sure to remain empowering throughout.
The key factor in this whole show is the concept that love is important, it is beautiful, and it should be explored, expressed, and celebrated at every opportunity. Heartstopper looks at the power of love and its ability to be life-changing, and puts this at the forefront of everything it does.
As dead inside as I am, I do love love. And I love how Heartstopper treats love with care, respect, and optimism – especially when it comes to its lead stars.
Central to this entire show is the relationship between Charlie and Nick, as played by Joe Locke and Kit Connor respectively. These two actors are perfectly cast in this series, and do an excellent job of bringing their small screen counterparts to life.
They slot into these roles so effortlessly, it feels as if the show was written especially for them. This feels particularly true for Joe Locke who plays Charlie with such believability that it is difficult to comprehend that this is the actor’s first major acting gig!
But what helps these actors nail their parts is some excellent writing, as well as some smart direction. Heartstopper is a series which has been lovingly put together by a team who are interested in telling this story, and who want to bring it to the screen in just the right way.
Writer Alice Oseman and director Euros Lyn understand this story inside out, and they know just when to expand the drama, when to deliver the emotional pay-offs, and how to ensure the audience remains satisfied. And this is pretty much all the time, because Heartstopper is a show that aims to deliver everything you could want from this story and more.
Whether Heartstopper is granted a second season or not, this eight-episode run feels very much like a self-contained tale. So, if this is all we get (and I hope that’s not the case), then at the very least it has a beginning, a middle, and an end that is designed to warm the heart and tell the story it needs to.
But I don’t think this will be a one-off run, as I believe Heartstopper will return for more episodes. There are a few plot threads to tug at, and plenty of avenues yet to explore, including more LGBTQ+ stories.
While Charlie and Nick are the main focus of this story, there are other tales being told including a side story involving a lesbian couple, and a burgeoning romance between two friends, one of whom is transgender. These are stories that I expect will come into greater focus if there is a second season, and I believe they will continue to be told with the same level of care as shown here.
If I’ve not been clear enough, and I’m pretty sure I have been, I absolutely adore Heartstopper. It is overwhelmingly cute in all the right places, and a real gem in Netflix’s portfolio.
The streaming service has been in the headlines recently, due to a drop-off in subscriber numbers, with many online articles ready to ring the death knell on Netflix. But the end is not upon us, and Heartstopper is a prime example of what the service can deliver, when not being distracted by quantity over quality.
This is a show which does everything right, without taking a heavy hand to the subject matter. It also doesn’t dwell too much on the bad to create drama, it instead shines its light on plenty of the good stuff about being in love – something which we could all do with much more of, especially those of us in the queer community.
I wish Heartstopper existed when I was a teen, but I am so happy it exists now. I hope that all the people who need to see it embrace it wholeheartedly, and I hope it receives all of the praise it so rightly deserves.