If you’ve got a high school-aged kid, chances are that the Netflix show Heartstopper will be on your radar. Everyone is watching it. Everyone is falling in love with it.
And that’s a very good thing indeed.
It may as well be called Heartwarmer, because this show is lovely to its core.
The story treads a familiar path: after a sweet encounter, Charlie (Joe Locke) develops a massive crush on the popular rugby-playing Nick (Kit Connor). Charlie’s trio of pals Tao (William Gao), Isaac (Tobie Donovan), and Elle (Yasmin Finney) try to warn him off because they’re certain Nick is straight. But Charlie thinks differently.
There’s a lot for Charlie to navigate here, given that he’s the only openly gay kid in the school – though he’s secretly meeting the nasty Ben (Sebastian Croft) in the closet. There’s also the fact that transgender Elle is secretly in love with Tao, so there are more teen romance twists to follow. All are sensitively handled and interesting to follow.
But Heartstopper is really about the effervescent Charlie and the charming Nick. It’s not giving anything away to tell you the pair “develop a friendship that turns into something more”. Like I said, this is well-trodden teen romance ground, plus the trailer for the series more than covers that.
What will take you by surprise, however, is how much joy this show will inject into your days. Osmen’s animation weaves in and out of the show, highlighting the emotions and complexities the boys experience as they slowly fall in love.
This is solid PG stuff, given an M rating most likely due to the LGBTQI+ content (which vexes me no end, but it is what it is). Heartstoppers is a reminder that not all teens are drug-abusing, sexed up narcissists ala Euphoria. (Which is an excellent show, BTW, but no way is my 13-year-old watching it!!) Instead, they’re chasing happiness and doing their best in a way that feels familiar to most parents of teens. The boys exist in a world where people support each other and try to understand, not undermine, differences. It’s an idyllic place, but I reckon it’s one that is just as true to real-life as the Euphorias of the world. Don’t you?
To add to the general wonderfulness of this romcom series, they’ve brought in Olivia Coleman as Nick’s understanding mum and Stephen Fry’s voice as the school headmaster (we don’t actually see him in the first series, but maybe he’s coming soon?). I could watch either of these stellar actors sell paint, so having them in the show is a big plus for me. Coleman superb in her role, bringing love, fear, understanding and pride into Sarah’s acceptance of Nick’s bisexuality.
This isn’t some fantasy queer utopia, however. Heartstopper handles issues of homophobia, bullying, self-loathing and rock-bottom self-esteem with grace. It will spark some excellent conversations with your kids if you watch it together, or even if you watch it apart.
I really urge you to get on board this wholesome, big-hearted show and encourage your teens to watch it too. With a bit of luck, this series will spark their interest in picking up an actual book again, like it did for my Year Niner. The graphic novel series is on the birthday list.