The highly anticipated live-action adaptation of Alice Oseman’s beloved coming-of-age webcomic turned graphic novel is nearly here – and it’s set to join the ranks of Love, Victor and Sex Education by exploring a variety of important teen LGBTQ+ love stories. First published back in 2019, the graphic novel has sold more than one million print copies worldwide to date, with streaming service Netflix picking up the adaptation for an eight episode series.
The series follows shy year 10 drummer Charlie (Joe Locke) as he’s assigned to sit next to popular year 11 rugby player Nick (Kit Connor) and the two quickly spark an unlikely friendship. As the pair begin to spend more time together – especially as Nick invites Charlie to join the school rugby team – they begin to discover that their friendship may be blossoming into something more. As feelings develop between the two, Nick and Charlie’s supportive circle of friends help them navigate the ever-relatable journey of self discovery and acceptance during the formative years at high school.
Aimed towards a much younger demographic than Euphoria or Skins, Heartstopper is a sweet coming-of-age romance and a hugely endearing watch thanks to the immediately likeable leads, enjoyable tone and brightly coloured palette. This is a welcome series with a distinctly warm and tender approach, paired with a real watchable quality as you genuinely root for these characters to find happiness. Fans of the graphic novel can breathe easy too, as it’s quick to see how much influence and creative control author Alice Oseman has, resulting in an impressively true translation from page to screen.
Along with the uplifting and sweet outlook, Oseman and the cast authentically capture the joy of connecting with and eventually falling for someone – complete with the sparks when in close proximity, the anxieties and resulting butterflies in your stomach and the exhilarating to-ing and fro-ing of messaging your crush. The central teenage romance is a hugely relatable narrative, with Oseman naturally and sensitively interweaving LGBTQ+ anxieties throughout – as the core cast navigate questions around their sexuality and identity, along with bullying at school and the experience of coming out. The inclusivity is impressive, feeling organic and never forced – particularly the exploration and portrayal of Nick’s bisexuality, along with trans female teenager Elle’s (Yasmin Finney) sweet blossoming relationship with her best friend – as her narrative refreshingly isn’t solely defined by her transition or trauma.
The casting really is picture perfect with Kit Connor (Rocketman, His Dark Materials) and newcomer Joe Locke as beloved leads Nick and Charlie. Locke perfectly captures the adorably nerdy, bumbly and profusely apologetic Charlie, while Connor sensitively portrays the confident but apprehensive rugby star Nick (and shares a number of brilliantly emotional scenes with his mum – who we’re not allowed to reveal!) Together, the leads share an affectionate and utterly adorable chemistry which feels lifted straight off the pages – along with an adorable rain Mr Darcy moment. Together, the diverse ensemble shine and feel refreshingly youthful and naturalistic (as opposed to actors in theirs 20s and 30s who often play high school teens.) Yasmin Finney and William Gao also share a charming dynamic, along with the confident, accepting and witty pairing of Corinna Brown and Darcy Olsen, who’s characters help Nick along his journey of self-discovery and acceptance.
The attention to detail in the production and sets is also impressive, with so many little details plucked from the pages of the graphic novel including Charlie’s room (which features his electric drum kit, music posters and neon ‘music’ light) the pair’s key clothing styles and haircuts. The cute, Scott Pilgrim-esque signature flourishes have also wonderfully been incorporated, particularly with the charming animated leaves, literal sparks between their hands and white panel frames. The rich blue, green and pink lighting from cinematographer Diana Olifirova aesthetically frames key scenes including a birthday party and a bowling date, paired with a very on brand electronic soundtrack featuring CHVRCHES, Maggie Rogers, Wolf Alice etc.
Heartstopper is a wonderfully heartwarming, tender and game-changing coming-of-age romance which will undoubtedly win over a whole new audience, whilst simultaneously surpassing the hopes of the fans of the graphic novel. With the endearing emphasis on friendship and acceptance, the uplifting and sweet tale of young love is just what young audiences need while navigating their own journeys.
Heartstopper premieres Friday 22 April on Netflix.