Having been bullied in school last year for coming out to the world, Charlie (Joe Locke) is finding it tough to stay in a steady relationship. He's got three close friends who support him, but he chooses to eat lunch alone in the art room where Mr. Ajayi (Fisayo Akinade) resides. One day, however, he discovers he's been paired up with rugby-loving Nick (Kit Connor) from the year above, but he's not the stereotypical boy that he presumed he was...
Based on the popular webcomic series by Alice Oseman, 'Heartstopper' is a coming-of-age story that will brighten up even the darkest of souls. Featuring a collection of actors who not only look like the ages they're playing but also manage to make you care deeply for them from the opening episode, this should be your next Netflix binge.
Seemingly the only student "out" in an all-boys school, this hasn't been an easy ride for Charlie. Being bullied by the school's rugby team last year was a low, but now he's trying to bounce back, a gentle soul that just wants to be accepted for who he is. Dampening his acceptance vibe, however, is his secret relationship with a fellow schoolboy, who wishes to keep their meet-ups secret for fear of being outed to his classmates.
While Charlie starts off as the main character of the series, we eventually get to learn more about Nick, who takes us on his own journey of self-discovery. Nick is the best sports star in the school, he has brutish mates, and he's suddenly forced to look inward as surprising new feelings begin to bubble to the surface. The pair of them together oozes teenage angst and awkwardness, it's just too cute and warm and fuzzy to ignore.
Fear: it's a major topic explored in 'Heartstopper'. The fear that someone might "out" you in school; the fear that your crush might not like you; the fear that your peers or your family members might not accept you for who you are. It's not only teens that this series will relate to, but anyone who has at one point or another in their life felt like an outsider. Any LGBTQ+ person watching the show (and hey, the straight people too) will find themselves drawn to one or more of the characters featured throughout the series because it feels real and relatable.
As the series' leading duo, both Joe Locke and Kit Connor bring a sense of warmth to these teens that instantly makes you want to know more about them. We see Charlie struggle as he tries to keep everyone happy except himself; Nick, meanwhile, is waking up to the real world happening around him. We journey with them both through their seas of emotions, hoping dearly that everything will turn out rosy in the end.
Yasmin Finney and William Gao as Charlie's friends Elle and Tao are characters that begin to blossom later in the series, each battling with their own coming-of-age issues. Elle, in particular, having moved from the all-boys school to the neighbouring girls' school, has her own journey that some viewers will find particularly wholesome.
The target audience for 'Heartstopper' might be teetering towards teens, but that doesn't mean us oldies can't appreciate it too. Some of the cutest moments of the series are when animated leaves appear on screen, cleverly depicting a character's fluttering feelings, and giving off comic-book vibes in line with the source material. There's also a cracking soundtrack featuring artists such as SOAK, Dayglow, Chairlift and more.
It would be remiss of us if we didn't mention Nick's mother, played by Oscar-winner Olivia Colman; a very small, steadfast role, but one that flourishes into something very meaningful by the final episode. Plus, there's a very recognisable voice used as the school's Headmaster over the intercom in Stephen Fry. We'd also like to give a special shoutout to Jenny Walser, who plays Charlie's ever-creepy but always encouraging older sister Tori, for adding some nice comedic timing to the show.
What sets 'Heartstopper' apart from other YA series is that it's not trying to be anything but a genuine tale about the complexities of young adulthood and figuring out one's genuine self. In a sea of NSFW series such as 'Euphoria' and even 'Sex Education', 'Heartstopper' is a refreshing, calming and beautiful series that's bursting full of heart and wonder.
'Heartstopper' begins streaming on Netflix from Friday, April 22.