My heart may not have stopped while viewing this delightful, bite-sized series celebrating queer love, but it did its fair share of melting, skipping, and riotous cheering.
Heartstopper is the lustrous TV adaptation of Alice Oseman’s YA graphic novel. It follows Charlie and Nick as they navigate the evolution of their friendship into something more, and it’s too cute for words, but I’ll do my best.
With only eight short episodes, it’s an easy-breezy one-night binge.
It is confounding that Heartstopper is not dominating the global Netflix charts. It should be sitting steadfast and pretty at number one, so this is my formal plea to you, reader: stream it!
You ask why? What makes Heartstopper so compelling?
For starters, most of the teens in Heartstopper are actually teens in real life, lending it an authentic quality that many YA shows lack nowadays.
The talented Joe Locke and Kit Connor are still older than their characters, Charlie and Nick, respectively, but not by much, so their dynamic feels as earnest and bright as they are.
Small moments seem big, as things do when you’re in high school, especially when falling in love.
Every glance, “hi,” and touch is electric, monumental, the fodder for love songs. There is a poem in each look.
I felt breathless and giddy while bearing witness to the patient blooming of Charlie and Nick’s relationship. Rest assured, you will, too, unless you have a void where your heart should be.
Smiling like you’re the one falling in love is not an option; it’s a reflex.
A wise stylistic choice was made to incorporate cutesy cartoon effects into the series, subtly keeping it tethered to the graphic novel, such as the scattering of leaves between scenes and the addition of gutters in certain shots, as seen on the pages.
To accentuate the already-palpable tension, colorful squiggles of crackling electricity appear as one character hovers their desiring hand over another’s or happy little stars and hearts pop by moony eyes.
This style punctuates the radiant, youthful nature of the show and honors its original form.
Animation aside, Heartstopper is full of stunning shots and vibrant colors.
There’s a bench flanked by weeping trees and a rainbow umbrella, painted roots on the art room floor beneath Charlie, a music room of turquoise sound waves and neatly hung guitars, a mint green milkshake truck in the middle of a clearing, tents of pink festooned with rainbow flags and pompoms, and so on.
You could play “Where’s Waldo?” while watching but replace Waldo with a rainbow.
The range of perspectives caught my eye, too.
Characters are seen from every vantage point: perhaps from above, a tree branch disrupting the frame, from below in the halls of Truham, or from behind arcade games and people’s heads. It is visual art at its finest.
Another aspect of Heartstopper that makes it worthwhile is how it handles sensitive material.
It does a superb job balancing joy and heartache, not shying away from gloom but not stewing in it either.
It delves into the mental turmoil that one might undergo while figuring out their sexuality and the unfortunate existence of some cruel, homophobic bully puffing their chest.
Then, it leaps headfirst into the effusive warmth of coming out and freeing oneself to love out loud, with supportive parents to boot.
Heartstopper is presented to us through a rainbow-colored lens rather than a rose-colored one.
The experiences of the queer students are honest, not diluted.
With every downward slope, there is a triumphant crest.
Who is there for both the highs and lows? Friends!
I’d be remiss to neglect Charlie’s friend group, which is as much a backbone of the show as the romance.
Who doesn’t love being a party to the antics of teenage besties?
There’s the O.G. three: Tao (William Gao), Elle (Yasmin Finney), and Isaac (Tobie Donovan), later joined by love birds Tara (Corinna Brown) and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell), once they befriend Elle when she transfers to Higgs.
Charlie, Tao, Elle, and Isaac are self-proclaimed nerds, getting together for film screenings and Monopoly — sounds fun to me, but I’m also admittedly a nerd.
Charlie is part sunshine, part puppy, Tao is a protective force, Elle is grounding, and Isaac is just there.
As Nick monopolizes Charlie’s time, a common high-school pest known as jealousy emerges; the show further commits to portraying the true face of teenage angst and insecurity.
Friendships can be fragile during that stage of life; one misstep and the whole thing can crumble. Heartstopper demonstrates both irreparably severed ties and reconciliation.
It also shows how friendship is unconditional, a place for depth and silliness.
With Tara, Darcy, and Nick in the mix, an adorable, close-knit group of milkshake-drinking friends is solidified and ready to take on the world and steal your heart.
Quick shoutout to Charlie’s sister Tori (Jenny Walser) for adding a dash of dry, monotone humor to the show. (Petition for a Tori spinoff?)
Heartstopper is a tenderly crafted ode to self-acceptance and love in all its brilliant forms.
It is simply a breath of fresh air.
While there has been no official Season 2 announcement, I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that this won’t be the last we see of our Truham boys and Higgs girls.
For anyone who’s already watched, what did you think? Let us know in the comments below.