CHEMICAL HEARTS – A Review by Cynthia Flores
First off, I have to tell you that I have not read the popular book “Our Chemical Hearts” written by Krystal Sutherland, so I will not debate how close or far this film is from the book. I will leave that to the battles of the legions of fans of the book surely to come on Twitter or Instagram. I am just dealing with the film version of this story written and directed by Richard Tanne. He was handpicked to do this film by its star Lili Reinhart that loved the book so much that she is also the Executive Producer for this film, Chemical Hearts. Most people just know her as girl-next-door Betty Cooper on the hit television series “Riverdale.” She was drawn to Sutherlands’ coming of age story about a teenage boy who is a hopeless romantic. Reinhart is quoted as saying, “I loved that it was not what you expect when talking about a teen love story. It seemed a lot deeper than many other young adult romances out there. It’s more raw and grounded in grief.” Reinhart says. “This is the internal struggle of these two young people feeling overwhelming emotions as their worlds are changing.”
Chemical Hearts tells the story of seventeen-year-old Henry Page (Austin Abrams), who has never been in love. The kind of once-in-a-lifetime love like his parents have is what he’s been hoping for, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Then, on the first day of senior year, he meets transfer student Grace Town (Lili Reinhart), and it seems all that is about to change. When Grace and Henry are chosen to co-edit the school paper, he is immediately drawn to the mysterious newcomer. However, Grace is not easy to get close to. She dresses in baggy jeans and T-shirts and keeps people at a distance with her standoffish attitude. She really is a reluctant co-editor and does not join in socially with Henrys’ tight-knit school paper staff. As Henry learns the heartbreaking secret that has changed her life, he finds himself falling in love with her or the person he thinks she is.
I was so pleasantly surprised to see a coming of age story avoid the cookie-cutter sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll stories that have been done to death. Instead, Chemical Hearts is a refreshing and smart take on being a teenager during your last year in high school in these current times. It shows drinking and some pot use as it occurs naturally at some high school parties. Also, the sex scene where Henry loses his virginity is painfully natural. The film deals with the issue of being responsible enough to use a condom. That alone kept it from the teen film norm of sex just being some sort of soft porn set up done to a blaring soundtrack.
This film has a great cast that deals with love, pain, heartbreak, and living in the limbo that all young people cross to become adults. There is also a good soundtrack to enjoy as this story takes its time to unfold at a natural pace instead of the wacky fast cuts of most teen films.
I give Chemical Hearts a 4-star rating. It’s a layered movie that won’t wreck you as you watch it, but it will remind you how hard it was to be young and dealing with adult feelings for the first time.
Directed by: Richard Tanne
Written by: Richard Tanne, (Book) Krystal Sutherland
Selig Rating: 4 Stars
Running Time: 93min
Drama / Romance
Exclusive Digital Release: July 21st on Amazon Prime
Starring: Lili Reinhart, Austin Abrams, Sarah Jones, Adihir Kalyan, Kara Young, Coral Pena, C.J. Hoff
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.