The Vibrant Vitality of ‘Heartstopper’

It’s the first day back after Winter break and sweet-as-a-marshmallow Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) has a new form group tablemate in charming rugby player Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). With mutual small smiles, a rainbow lens flare and their first iconic Hi’s, their unlikely friendship begins. Through overthought Instagram DMs and casual banter, the natural, soft chemistry between them grows further as their solid friendship evolves into something more. The adrenaline rush that they each get from messaging is palpable to the point that I found myself stressed and giggling like I was the one receiving the messages. Trust me, you’ll get invested in Nick and Charlie extremely quickly.

Heartstopper originated as a web comic and graphic novel series by Alice Oseman, who also created and wrote the entire first season. It’s very much a dual perspective story allowing the audience to get to know both Nick and Charlie separately and together. This is crucial as it establishes how different their worlds are. Charlie’s openly gay after being outed the previous year, so he talks extensively with his friends about his growing crush on Nick. It’s where we discover how insecure Charlie can be about his importance in other people’s lives, always viewing himself as a burden rather than the light that he truly is. Charlie’s chosen family is such a comfort zone and understanding safe space for him. The concept of chosen family is such a crucial necessity, a lot of times, in the queer community and, like everything else about the series, it feels so naturalistic. On Nick’s side, he’s got a very loving mum, played by the ever-exquisite Olivia Colman, but, other than her, Nick’s friends are mostly trash until he meets Charlie. While Charlie’s obsessing about Nick can feel dominant, it’s only because of the silence on Nick’s end where he initially keeps his emerging feelings to himself. Let the boys beam about their elated internal screams, please!

There’s so much beauty in Heartstopper’s simplicity. We have two teen boys experiencing the very all-encompassing and awkward realities of navigating love, mental health, and school while still discovering who they are as humans. It’s pure, it’s fresh, it’s what we should’ve had for LGBTQIA+ youth representation all along. Heartstopper is genuine and purposeful. From the hesitant googling in the early days of identity exploration to realistic queer experience, this series focuses most often on the scary excitement of the journey that is supremely relatable and wholesome. There’s a sweetness to Heartstopper that makes it feel so lived in and at once entirely refreshing. Sure, there are the sadly expected homophobic and traumatic moments, but the series isn’t defined by these scenes. The queer joy truly prevails over all else.

The translation from comic to television series works beautifully, as they’ve added animated moments to signal and amplify strong character emotions. There are chemistry fireworks bursting from when Nick and Charlie’s hands touch. Colored hearts dance around their heads when the sweetness between them peaks. Comic panels also compliment split screens seamlessly. The iconic Fall colored leaves cozily float around characters. Glow stick light streams encompass truthful bonds. It’s a playful visual feast along with the extremely purposeful lighting, complimenting orientations of the characters they illuminate. During a party scene, newly out Tara (Corinna Brown) and her girlfriend Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) are joyously dancing together to a true banger (‘Clearest Blue’ by CHVRCHES) on a rainbow lit dance floor. As they kiss for the first time in public glittery confetti floats down around them. It’s the most euphoric queer moment. It’s absolute pure happiness, the entire visual motivating Nick to realize that this type of loving joy is what he wants, too. The fresh color palette, quite arty cinematography, and inspired lighting are supplemented by both the lush soundtrack and buoyant score by Adiescar Chase.

Heartstopper has left me feeling extremely wistful, much to my surprise. While the content of the show is distinctly optimistic, it’s made me nostalgic for something I didn’t have. Patience is a recurring theme throughout the first season. Patience for understanding and summoning courage. Charlie consistently grants Nick patience without hesitation or pressure, as the foundation of their relationship is support for one another. It’s truly a gift that a lot of people don’t have. I’m in my twenties and I still don’t have so much of who I am figured out. Sometimes it takes hearing the message of taking your time from the right source to truly believe it yourself, like Nick and Charlie do for each other. Seeing this level of queer joy, truly centered on the joy, is a genuine saving grace. It’s something I wish I had when I was younger. I’m so grateful for the current teen generation to have Heartstopper and, honestly, for myself as an adult, as well.

The energy of Heartstopper is consistent encouragement to be yourself and it’s such inspiring bliss. Joe Locke and Kit Connor absolutely nail their leading roles with such authenticity and delicately electric chemistry. They’re a magic dynamic. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else in these roles, delivering the vibrancy of Alice Oseman’s writing. This series will mean so much to so many, including myself. Seeing an unabashed queer couple leading such a hopeful show that reinforces how everyone deserves to find such shimmering love and happiness is everything.

My heart really needed Heartstopper and I know yours does too.

Heartstopper season one is now streaming on Netflix.

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