Chemical Hearts Review: A Moving Portrait of Young Love

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Set some time away this weekend to watch Chemical Hearts on Amazon Prime.

Starring Lili Reinhart (who also executive produces) and Austin Abrams, the movie follows young love at its most beautiful and most painful.

"You're never more alive than when you're a teenager," the trailer posits. "Your brain is flush with chemicals that can turn your life into a story of epic proportions." But by the start of his senior year, nothing wonderful had happened to Henry Page (Abrams).

Chemical Hearts Poster

It's the kind of magic on which teenagers for millennia have used as they search for their own epic stories. It can be as damning to a young soul as it is freeing to imagine there is a big world out there, but you're not yet a part of it.

Henry has looked forward to his last year in high school for the chance to edit the school paper, a dream that gets interrupted with the arrival of Grace Town (Reinhart), a gifted writer their teacher believes will partner beautifully with Henry in a joint effort to manage the paper together.

Thankfully, Grace is lovely and mysterious, and Henry is almost immediately smitten with the possibility of sharing his coveted duties with the transfer student.

But if Henry has been aching for something dramatic and exciting to happen to him, Grace is no stranger to all that the possibility entails.

Catching Up with Grace

When we meet Grace, she's fragile and damaged, wearing a tough front that doesn't do quite enough to mask her beauty inside and out. She's suffered more than someone should at a young age, and she has the physical and emotional scars to prove it.

Henry isn't deterred, and with their shared passion for words, they embark on a friendship, quickly realizing in each other kindred spirits.

What follows is the stuff of dreams -- and a teenager's worst nightmare. So often, young love has incredible highs and devastating lows, and the newness of it all makes navigating the waters perilous for those not yet familiar with the territory.

For every moment of pleasure that Henry has while spending time with Grace, Grace is reminded that happiness is fleeting. Grace is who Henry will be after he experiences and loses love, when he's blindsided by life in the midst of his epic story.

Chemical Hearts Friends

Like so many love stories, timing is everything, and Henry must fight for Grace. Whether Grace can outmaneuver her past to find happiness again with Henry is why you'll watch.

Reinhart gives a wonderful performance as Grace, which isn't surprising.

She has spent quite some time in the public eye, and she's never shied away from sharing her own highs and lows with her fans. It's easy to see why the subject matter, based on the novel Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland, appealed to her. It's a good fit.

Abrams, too, does well with the material. He's a little more sedate in his performance, but it suits Henry just fine. Young men often find it more difficult to share what they're feeling, and Henry's romantic role models include his parents and his older sister.

Sarah Jones from Chemical Hearts

His parents fell in love in high school and never looked back. They wouldn't know unhappiness because they've lived charmed lives.

His sister (Sarah Jones) is recently divorced and offers Henry an ear to share his deepest thoughts and some advice when the water gets choppy. It's her medical background that gives the movie its title.

She shares the myriad chemicals at play when you think you're in love. It's just a chemical process, she says, and losing love is like going through withdrawal as your body struggles to live without the high of love.

It's not a coincidence that Reinhart used the same terminology to describe her own failings with love.

Lili Reinhart in Chemical Hearts

Richard Tanne directs Chemical Hearts and makes sure that the picture appeals to people of all ages.

Despite the veneer of annoying happiness that he sees when he views his parents, Henry eventually realizes that every adult has once been in his shoes, and if they made it that far, it's practically a miracle they escaped intact with the swell of hormones and emotions that once threatened their very existence.

And perhaps parents don't remember everything that they suffered during those years because the memories are just too painful. You can't fault them for surviving.

It's a unique perspective and one that suits the target audience well. It's always a good message to further unite kids and their parents.

Artistic Chemical Hearts

Visually, Chemical Hearts offers some stunning locations that at times suggest a love for the gothic style as dilapidated structures come alive with string lights and shadows.

It's as dramatic as it is haunting and beautifully frames the teeming emotions that Henry and Grace weather during their senior year.

Chemical Hearts is a perfect end-of-summer movie with blockbuster potential. Ordinarily, it would offer hope to kids getting ready to enter their final years of high school or move onto college campuses.

It's unfortunate that most teens will be robbed of the experiences Henry and Grace face in the movie due to the oddity of 2020, but at least Chemical Hearts does its part to stimulate their desires.

Chemical Hearts will be available on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, August 21.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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