Written and directed by Richard Tanne, Chemical Hearts is based on the book Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland. The film sees Lili Reinhart (Riverdale and Hustlers) as Grace Town and Austin Abrams (The Walking Dead, Paper Towns and Euphoria) as Henry Page, with Reinhart also serving as an executive producer alongside Sutherland and Jamin O’Brien.
Chemical Hearts is a story about Henry Page, a 17-year-old high school student who has his eye on becoming the next Editor-in chief of his school newspaper. His life seems ‘normal’, mundane and simple. However, he believes he is a hopeless romantic even though he’s never actually been in love before. One day he meets transfer student Grace Town, and from the get go, you know she has a story to tell, with her quietness and the resilience she has for keeping personal information just that – personal. They are automatically drawn to each other with their love and passion for literature, poetry and the language of romance. He’s a writer but can’t talk, yet she can talk but can no longer write. Why is that? Instantly, they have a connection and it soon becomes intriguing to watch.
Yet this isn’t your typical ‘boy-meets-girl’ kind of film. It’s filled with heartbreaking secrets and a rollercoaster of emotions. The feeling you get when you meet Henry and Grace for the first time makes you want to answer the questions ‘who are they?’ and ‘what’s their story?’. They pull you into their world, into their story and you don’t want to leave until that story has been told.
Reinhart’s execution of Grace is brilliant. She is captivating and draws your attention immediately as the not quite so ‘damsel in distress’ (after Henry learns of the car crash she was in leaving her mentally and physically scarred). Her flexibility as an actress to go from dramatic and vulnerable to laid back and open is impressive. The same can’t be said, unfortunately, for Abrams as Henry. His character’s emotions rarely fluctuate, so we don’t get a chance to see any dramatic progression until towards the end when he finally has his moment to be open and free. He no longer is the awkward teenager we see at the start of the film.
Other cast members include Kara Young as La and C.J. Hoff as Muz, Henry’s two best friends whom he describes as “a trio of unclassifiable misfits”. Alongside Hoff and Young are Sarah Jones as Sadie, Henry’s older sister, Coral Peña as Cora, La’s romantic interest, Bruce Altman as Henry’s father Toby and Meg Gibson as Henry’s mother Gloria.
The film is an honest and open book about the lives of complicated young adults. It’s about heartbreak, loss, friendship, secrets and having the desire (and at the same time suffering the pain) to move on. It’s dark yet beautiful and pure. The script is so graceful that the audience may forget entirely that it’s a script they’re reciting from and not their own creative imagination. The words are inspiring and the script is eloquent.
Chemical Hearts is a thought-provoking film. It’s truthful and pulls at the heartstrings of those who just want Grace and Henry to be happy. The ending is different to what I expected it would be, not like your usual ‘fairytale ending’, but perhaps one more realistic to the audiences of the 21st century. Nonetheless, it does make you wonder…‘what’s next?’