Based on the book “Our Chemical Hearts” by Krystal Sutherland, Chemical Hearts is a heart-heavy contrast of the joys and wonders of being a teen with the not-so-pretty lows that come with it.
Seventeen-year-old Henry Page (Austin Abrams) is a socially awkward senior who’s a hopeless romantic with a zest for writing. While gunning for the Editor-in-Chief position with his school’s newspaper, he meets a fellow applicant named Grace Town (Lili Reinhart) who’s new to the school. As the two await their interview opportunity, Henry notices that she’s reading a book. He tentatively notes that she’s reading “Love Sonner XVII” by Pablo Neruda. While Henry might not be the extroverted socialite that people expect, he does a good job of noting details, and this will come in handy as he uses this tidbit as an icebreaker when the time comes.
About halfway through the film, Henry ends up having a deep conversation with his older sister, Suds (Sarah Jones), who’s a nurse. She breaks love down to a chemical perspective while giving a nod to the film’s title simultaneously.
As time goes on and his feelings grow, our silent and often times awkward Henry begins to open up. But he’ll eventually have to learn for himself if he’s falling in love with Grace or the thought of her.
While the project might be aimed at the modern-day teen, it’s still packed with all of the elements of a teenage life that we can all relate to: Good times, bad times, fear of the unknown, unpredictability, and an attempt, whether firm or subpar, at navigating this thing we call life. If you think about it, taking on life, learning, love, friendship, and communication, between the ages of 13 and 18 shouldn’t be easy. Just reading this should sound like a massive undertaking.
“Adults are just scarred kids who were just lucky enough to make it out of limbo alive.”Grace Town in Chemical Hearts
The soundtrack to the film should receive as much praise as the film itself. Multiple songs took me to another plane while watching Henry and Grace make numerous attempts to convey their feelings and frustrations. “Where’s My Love” by SYML, “Take Care” by Beach House, and “Die 4 You” by Perfume Genius are just a few of the well-placed tracks that you’ll hear.
I give Chemical Hearts an 8.5 out of 10. The film was written and directed by Richard Tanne (Southside with You) while Lili Reinhart doubled as both costar and Executive Producer. The team did an excellent job of capturing what it’s like to be a teenager from a myriad of perspectives. Navigating high school is daunting task that not many people want to admit, but Chemical Hearts does a great job with realism as well as representation.
Chemical Hearts is available now on Amazon Prime Video. It is rated R with a running time of 93 minutes.
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios