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Heartstopper review: ‘Gay teen romance is the uplifting LGBTQ series we need’

Netflix's adaptation of Alice Oseman's graphic novel series is the show we all needed growing up, writes Attitude's Alastair James.

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Netflix

Simply put: if you’re already a fan of the Heartstopper web-comic/graphic novel, you’re going to like Netflix’s adaptation.

The series, starring Joe Locke, Kit Connor, Yasmin Finney, and Will Gao is a faithful recreation of the source material to the point where many of the comic’s panels are realised like-for-like on screen.

Based on Alice Oseman’s popular web-comic the series tells the story of high schoolers Charlie Spring (Locke) and Nick Nelson (Connor) as they meet, become friends, and an unexpected relationship blossoms.

The horticultural metaphor is a fitting one given many of Oseman’s original illustrations.

As the young cast discuss in Attitude’s May/June issue, the theme of growth is laced throughout the whole show from the animations that highlight key moments to the costumes and set design. Viewers will have to pay very close attention to details that while minute serve to amplify the show’s themes. 

Kit Connor and Joe Locke in Heartstopper (Photo: Netflix)

And compared to LGBTQ shows such as It’s A Sin, Heartstopper gives us life. Rather than focusing on trauma and/or death, Heartstopper is an uplifting and positive LGBTQ story.

While homophobia and bullying are present within the story, just as they are in real life, they aren’t the focus. Instead, a careful balance is struck where we get to see young LGBTQ relationships grow and be celebrated for what they are: normal. 

And it is such a joy to watch. Especially at a time when some seem determined to tear the LGBTQ community down in any way that they can. This makes Heartstopper all the more important and the potential this show has to make a difference all the more real.

While the showis primarily aimed at a younger audience, it still has a broad appeal and people of all ages will be able to enjoy it. Its characters and the experiences they have are all hugely relatable; it’s one of the strengths of Oseman’s world in general.

Kit Connor and Joe Locke in Heartstopper (Photo: Netflix)

The cast adds to this. Pretty much everyone has been perfectly cast in a search which the show’s producer Patrick Walters has told Attitude was exhaustive and at times difficult (“There was never any option but to cast authentically”).

But ultimately, their search has paid off and the mostly green cast all fit their roles as if it was meant to be. 

Locke and Connor perfectly capture the awkwardness of being a teenager and falling in love. One adorable scene early on sees them saying ‘Hi’ to one another as they bump into each other around school. That awkwardness continues as the pair’s friendship develops and they try to figure out what is going on. 

Few actually look as close to their original comic-book character as Joe Locke to Charlie Spring. The likeliness is truly uncanny. He brings a quiet and understated assuredness to Charlie, who has come out prior to Heartstopper‘s opening episode.

Kit Connor and Joe Locke in Heartstopper (Photo: Netflix)

Connor, while shorter than his graphic novel counterpart (which he’s admitted) meets the challenge of portraying someone battling against the expectations he places on himself as well as those placed on him by others. 

Yasmin Finney provides some much-needed on-screen representation for trans women of colour and has been empowered by the opportunity has provided her. Her performance – one of the strongest in the show – is a sign of greater things to come. 

And Will Gao provides many a one-liner or snippy remark as his character Tao Xu becomes increasingly jealous of the time best friend Charlie is spending with Nick. 

Yasmin Finney and Will Gao in Heartstopper (Photo: Netflix)

With just eight-half-hour episodes, the series is easily binge-able – perfect for our 21st-century viewing habits – and moves along at a snappy pace. 

Heartstopper is probably the show many of us would have wanted to be able to watch when we were growing up. The younger sibling to Sex Education (also on Netflix) Heartstopper gives LGBTQ representation in a package that is accessible for everyone and that is definitely not as explicit.

It’s heartwarming, it’s cute, and it’s fun. It’s the type of LGBTQ show we need more of in 2022. 

Rating: 4/5

Heartstopper streams on Netflix from Friday 22 April. The Attitude May/June issue is out now.