Chemical Hearts (2020) – Movie Review

My Chemical Romance

Adults are just scarred kids who were lucky enough to make it out of teenage limbo alive. This beautifully poignant assessment of teen years sums up Chemical Hearts beautifully. For some, teenage years aren’t the “best years of their life” but instead a lonely struggle to survive the jungle. If a small glimmer of hope arrives, you grab it with both hands and hold on for dear life.

Based on the book “Our Chemical Hearts”, Amazon’s latest romantic drama attempts to steer clear of all those cliches propping up the genre. There’s a real desire here to try and showcase the poignancy and heartbreak that comes with first love.

For those unaware, the story itself revolves around Grace Town and Henry Page. Henry is a quiet kid, a hopeless romantic and invested in working on the school newspaper.

When a new transfer student (Grace) arrives, fate throws her and Henry together as they work on the paper. Of course, this acquaintance soon blossoms into so much more, bringing with it all the ups and downs of first love.

Unlike the excellent serialized adaptation of Normal People however, Chemical Hearts doesn’t achieve its goal very elegantly.

In fact, in its desire to try and steer clear of regular cliches Chemical Hearts finds itself embracing them harder than it otherwise would. Rainfall in the third act? Check. Hopeless romantic as the lead protagonist? Check. 

This shopping list of tropes continues right the way through the film and despite some nice scenes late on, Chemical Hearts flat-lines into a mediocre rhythm of forgetfulness.

Thematically, there’s some really nice material here. The ideas of trauma, heartbreak and mental health are present in one form or another – usually through Henry or Grace – but it’s never dived into that deeply. In essence, this movie boasts depth as wide as an ocean but feels as deep as a puddle.

To be fair, the symbolism surrounding a vase and scars are, ironically, the one element that actually helps stitch everything together. It’s just such a shame that it comes at the expense of characters and the soul essence of a book which captured these ideas so well.

While the screenplay is lacking and the cliches abundant, Chemical Hearts does get some brownie points for its soundtrack and camera work. There’s some really nice shots here and some varied musical montages help to break up some of the heavier elements.

Ultimately though Chemical Hearts is a movie that lacks the spark needed to live up to its premise. There’s definitely some compelling themes in here but they’re overshadowed by an archetypal protagonist we’ve seen a million times before.

Chemical Hearts isn’t a bad romantic drama but it’s not a particularly great one either. It’s a movie that could have been so much more but fails to add depth to its ambitious ideas of poignancy and heartbreak. And that in itself is pretty heartbreaking.

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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