You’ve probably heard about the Amazon-exclusive movie Chemical Hearts. Between Riverdale star Lili Reinhart’s huge and dedicated fanbase to the breakout success of the book the film is based on, there’s been some hype around this movie.
Let’s start by giving a hat tip to the incredible supporting cast members in Chemical Hearts, who, in a lot of ways, were more interesting than the main characters the film is built around. Kara Young and Coral Peña gave me life — not to mention, they gave us a queer Black, Latinx couple which you pretty much NEVER see on screen. And they are just a normal high school couple, there’s no editorializing about who they are or why they’re queer. They just exist, without any after school special needing to be built around them, so that was awesome. These characters just felt more relatable with interesting personalities that kind of reminded me of my own friends. And I just have to say, Austin Abrams’ two besties in this movie give off total Janis Ian and Damian vibes.
The main plot of Chemical Hearts revolves around Grace (Lili Reinhart), who becomes the love interest of our main character, Henry, (Austin Abrams). Henry is a quiet “loser” who is about to take over as editor for the school paper when transfer student Grace (Reinhart) is brought in to be co-editor. Although she is a bit standoffish and moody, Henry begins a friendship with her. As he starts to hang out with her, her true colors start to come to light and he is down for the ride because he finds himself almost immediately and completely smitten with her.
The problem is that Grace has a heartbreaking secret that has changed her life, and both her emotions and her mental health are (understandably) all over the place. She is constantly sending Henry mixed signals and leading him on. It all hits the fan real quick because Henry begins to unravel details about Grace’s past and each time he approaches her, she does the only logical thing she can think of to avoid talking about her reality – which is making out with him. Henry eventually discovers who Grace really is and tries to help her move on with her life. But Grace doesn’t really need to be saved. She just needs time to heal.
Grace was the standout character for me while Henry was rather boring and basic. What is more basic than running a thorough “background investigation” on Facebook immediately after meeting someone? What I liked most about this movie was that although Grace went through a traumatic experience, she continued to push herself and try to get back to a new normal for herself. And I know not every teenager goes through exactly what she went through, but lots of us have had traumatic experiences that cause deep pain and force us to grow up quicker than we have to. To see her go through the emotions, attempt to recover from it, and in the end, succeed is super encouraging.
The message here is that teenage life (like life in general) is, like, really hard. But always worth it in the end.