TV Review: ‘Heartstopper’ Is The Best Teen Show Streaming Right Now

Credit: Metro

Joining the ranks of Young Royals, I Am Not Okay With This, and Love, Victor, a new binge-able LGBTQ+ teen show has entered the scene. Heartstopper is a light-hearted queer romance based on the best-selling comics by Alice Oseman, that follows openly-gay over-thinker Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and himbo rugby player Nick Nelson (Kit Connor) as their friendship evolves into something more.

Via YouTube

Unlike so many page-to-screen adaptations, Heartstopper sticks close to its source material, made possible by the fact that Oseman themself wrote the script. Seeing iconic scenes from the comics, like Nick running into the sea and yelling “I like Charlie Spring! In a romantic way, not just a friend way!”, replicated perfectly highlight Oseman’s ability to seamlessly translate Heartstopper from one medium to another.

The actors’ physical similarities to their characters are uncanny; Locke and Connor, as well as the rest of the cast, look as if they’ve just stepped out of Oseman’s comics. Contrary to many teen shows on Netflix, the actors are not only close in age to their characters (who are in their GCSE years, with the majority of the cast still in secondary school while filming), they look like teenagers as well, adding a rare does of realism in Netflix’s glossy archives. Instead of having twenty-five-year-old actors with six-packs, Heartstopper portrays teenagers in all their awkward, imperfect glory.

Another way Heartstopper diverges from contemporary teen shows is its lack of explicit content. Instead of f-bombs every other second, wild parties that resemble orgies, and copious amounts of alcohol and marijuana, it has snarky comebacks, friends getting together to play Monopoly and watch films, and delicious-looking milkshakes. The show understands that fourteen and fifteen-year-olds are much more likely to be caught excessively saying “your mum” jokes than having threesomes. 

Even though Nick and Charlie get together just four episodes after meeting, their relationship never feels like Insta-Love. Rather, through montages showcasing their friendship – “hi” … “hi” – tiny glimpses of their conversations through DMs, and shots of one of them watching the other, their friends-to-lovers arc develops naturally.

Heartstopper is a must-watch for LGBTQ+ kids and teens for its portrayal of queer happiness”

The show includes quite a few shots of Nick and Charlie sitting or lying down in silence while one of them stares at the other with the dopiest smile on their face, and in every single one, Locke and Connor capture the look of lovestruck teenagers beautifully. Even if Heartstopper had been just a montage of Nick and Charlie staring and smiling at each other, it would’ve been able to melt even the iciest heart.

While it’s a mostly lighthearted show, Heartstopper doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of young LGBTQ+ life. When Charlie came out, he was bullied a lot by boys in other years, which is why his best friend Tao is so protective of him and wary of Nick. Nick undergoes a sexuality crisis, shown through a montage in which he takes “Are you gay?” quizzes, reads “Signs You’re Gay” articles, agonises over how he can be attracted to both boys and girls, always on the verge of tears. When Tara and Darcy, two of Nick and Charlie’s friends, debut their romance via Instagram, they receive support but also homophobic backlash. Heartstopper manages to show the negative experiences that can accompany being an LGBTQ+ teen without ever getting bogged down by it.

With songs from Baby Queen, Wolf Alice, Dayglow, and Rina Sawayama, Heartstopper’s soundtrack is a carefully-curated indie dream. From “girls” by girl in red playing over a montage of Elle watching Tara and Darcy together to “If You Want To” by beabadoobee scoring Nick walking into Charlie’s birthday party, it seems as if every single song on the soundtrack was written specifically for the scene it’s played in.

Overall, Heartstopper is a must-watch for LGBTQ+ kids and teens for its portrayal of queer happiness, something lacking in much of modern queer media, and should be on everybody’s watchlist for its beautifully-written story, top-notch acting, amazing soundtrack, and realistic portrayal of teenage-hood.

Heartstopper is available now on Netflix.

Words by Avantika Singh

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