By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on the novel Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland, this movie adaptation examines the way teenagers respond to different kinds of heartbreak and how this sorrow forces them to take leaps away from naive innocence. It is a subject dealt with in other, nearly countless stories from literature and cinema, some of which are actually mentioned in this movie. It seems as if both Sutherland and Chemical Hearts writer/director Richard Tanne are not trying to revolutionize teen love stories, but hope to enrich them. Tanbe’s film does succeed on certain levels, but also lacks solid character development on the part of its protagonist.
Austin Abrams stars as said protagonist Henry Page, a shy and mostly introverted writer who, at the beginning of his high school senior year, gets selected to be the chief editor of the school newspaper. Thinking his year will be as uneventful as his past high school years, Austin gets a big surprise when he meets transfer student Grace Town (Lili Reinhardt), a quiet, but alluring young wonan with a bit of a bad attitude. As Austin gets to know her a little better and as she warms up to him, he falls head-over-heels in love with Grace. Grace eventually begins to reciprocate these feelings, but as the relationship progresses quickly, Grace begins to vack off, as some temporarily repressed emotions from trauma in her past begin to surface.
I will say that Richard Tanne makes a solid entry in the teen romance genre with Chemical Hearts. The characters are relatable and likable and their struggles are realistically portrayed for the most part. When it comes to the moment of conflict, though, I feel that the writing is definitely lacking when it comes to the development of the Henry Page character. Nevertheless, I still found myself involved with these compelling characters and this is certainly thanks to the wonderful performances by actors Reinhardt and Abrams.
As Grace, Lili Reinhardt brings a hardshelled toughness that masks pained vulnerabilities. She does an exceptional job of juggling and balancing on this line. Austin Abrams gives a highly lovable turn as the sweet, shy and introspective Henry. His big heart us what charms Grace, and it is a quality that is sure to charm audiences as well. The two actors know exactly how to work that awkward romantic tension between them and evolve that feeling into genuine chemistry.
So, even though this movie has its weaknesses, it is still an enjoyable and moving love story. It is a film with which teens can relate and one that could make adults reflect on their high school years. It is a movie I would recommend with some tempered expectations. Chemical Hearts is now available for streaming via Amazon.