Chemical Hearts is draining, in the best way, as it takes you through the emotional toll of not just healing, but shedding your childhood and expectations.
|Screenplay By||Richard Tanne|
|Date Released (Amazon Prime)||8/21/2020|
|Genre(s)||Drama, Romance, Young Adult, LGBT|
|Duration||1 Hour, 33 Minutes|
This content contains pertinent spoilers.
It’s senior year at West River High School, and Henry, an aspiring writer, is going to become an editor at his school’s quarterly newspaper. Well, correction, co-editor. For with Grace, a transfer from East River, coming to the school, and being quite the writer at her old school, the instructor thinks it would be best for them to be co-editors.
When it comes to Henry, this is fine, but with Grace not even wanting to be part of the paper in the first place, this was a problem. At least until Henry began pursuing her and, with it being a while since someone tried to get to know her and invest in her, the feeling is nice. Maybe not the best timing, but nice.
And as this happens, two of Henry’s friends, also on the paper, La and Cora, are exploring what could become of them. Especially since La is full-on into girls and Cora? Well, let’s just say something happened before, and now she is still figuring stuff out. Leaving La confused, like Henry, due to lack of communication, assumptions, and it being hard to know when to give someone space, bite the hook, or pursue.
Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Why It’s Rated R: the MPAA says language, sexuality, and teen drug use, and to further that, there is some cursing, but not enough to think anyone is vulgar. When it comes to sexuality, don’t think you are going to see anyone naked. Sex is implied, but the most you may see is someone in their bra and underwear or Henry without a shirt on. As for drug use? There is weed smoking in maybe one or two scenes, but you’ll probably barely notice or remember it.
- Both Peña and Young went for the role of La, and while Peña wasn’t given it, her character was created so La wasn’t just queer, but someone who was queer and had a relationship.
Collected Quote(s) & .Gifs
Don’t try to be good at it, just be here with me.
Adults are just scarred kids who were lucky enough to make it out of teenage limbo alive.
Scars are not reminders of what’s been broken, but rather what’s created.
How Grace Is Handled
While the press releases for this, and trailer, made it clear this isn’t going to be about Henry, for part of the movie, you may feel like this is going to be about him growing up off the back of Grace’s pain. Luckily, that isn’t the case. He is neither her savior nor is she what ushers him into adulthood. Rather, they have this strange dynamic that, while it may teeter towards her giving him a reality check and him trying to show her there is life beyond her grief, a good middle is found.
Perhaps the best way to understand this is to take note of when they start becoming romantic and intimate. They communicate in such a way you’d expect creatives to, even if Henry is a bit timid at times. Henry, who seemingly has never had luck with love and has lived a life which may have vicarious adventures, you can see him try to step into that role of knight in shining armor or the guy who could break Grace’s shell. At least until she makes it clear she isn’t something he can fix for she has to work on herself.
And with that, you see her try to do that with Henry’s love, time, and affection as a means. Yet, in that journey, you can see her work through her guilt of being alive, trying to reconcile who she was with who she is now, and deal with Henry, who doesn’t know her pain and the struggle to be with someone new. Especially in the things you don’t often hear teen movies or shows talk about like, how do you learn to kiss someone again? Specifically, kiss them as someone new and not who you loved once before?
Thus making it so just as you think one person might be benefitting from the interaction more than the other, something tilts things to help remind you relationships require effort from both sides. And, unfortunately, it won’t always be 50/50, and you have to sometimes take the initiative, or leave an open door, so that someone can step up and show you what they are willing and sometimes able to do.
La and Cora’s Relationship
The way La and Cora’s relationship is handled is very high school. At least in terms of the idea that, there isn’t always this attractive person of the same sex who happens to also like you and is accessible. Rather, Chemical Hearts feels a little closer to reality where you kind of feel like something is there, and feel like you are reading the signs, but it is always hard to know if you are on the same page.
So with La seemingly out and interested, and Cora figuring herself out, you don’t instantly get that ideal relationship. Rather, the movie makes you wait, and La wait for it. Thus we get less of the ideal, and more of what feels like reality. Especially in terms of, while La may have to wait while Cora gets her mind together, once they do get together, it isn’t a big deal. More so, it was just a lack of communication on what the other person wanted, needed, had in mind, or what have you.
Like La and Cora, Suds, Henry’s older sister, doesn’t play a huge or truly notable role. More so, she helps amplify Henry’s emotions in a way so that he can match Grace’s inner turmoil. One example being, Suds, and Henry’s parents are high school sweethearts, and you can almost see Henry’s desire to live up to that and have that for himself. Making it so, when he struggles, he needs Suds more than his parents, for she has tried and failed at love. Add in she is working on being a neurosurgeon, and she is able to breakdown what is going on within Henry, and also helps you understand why the movie is named Chemical Hearts.
On The Fence
Muz Just Exists, As Do Many Other Characters
As noted above, the film heavily is about Grace and Henry while featuring the other characters with the occasional spotlight. But when it comes to Muz, the other male in Henry’s group, there isn’t anything done with him. Heck, in terms of Henry’s parents, what we know about them is almost completely through his eyes, and even in terms of Grace’s home life, her mom, and the people she stays with, their side, and their story is only given through her perspective.
On top of that, we’re given just enough. At best, we’re just clued into why they exist like someone had to justify their checks and present a financer why they couldn’t just cut this or that part.
Would Watch Again? – One and Done
Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)
Chemical Hearts is the kind of film that respects its subject matter and doesn’t use a tragedy for both sympathy and a launching pad. Rather, it respects Grace’s grief and struggles as well as the inability that people have when you feel connected to a person like Grace. Is truly being there enough or should you volunteer to do more? If you taking initiative leads to push back, is it because they don’t want to feel like a burden, or are you crossing boundaries you shouldn’t?
Add in Cora and La, and the issues they have due to clear communication, and you get two great love stories. Mind you, with a lot of characters who sometimes feel like extras given a handful of lines, but it is rare for a film to present a strong sense of value to everyone we meet. And in the case of Chemical Hearts, for those who don’t make a name for themselves, they do, even in minor ways, act as the support some characters need.
Leading to why this is being rated positively. While we wouldn’t say this is the best young adult love story or brings new life to a tale that includes the unfortunate life of a teenager, and the person who loves them, it is one of the better ones.
Where To Watch
Ending Explained (Spoilers)
While Grace was warming up to Henry, there becomes the issue that in her warming up to Henry, it could be seen as she was trying to move on from Dom, her ex, through Henry’s love. But the trouble with that is, she wasn’t able to fully give herself to Henry, and with her being his first everything, he struggled with not having her all. Hence his need to be there and sometimes push harder than she wanted him to.
And it seems, as she had some though she was moving on or could, the guilt hit her. For in her feeling better, liking, potentially loving, someone new, it felt like she betrayed her first love, who is dead. Then, to make matters worse, he died due to her teasing him and the distraction she caused. Add in they were friends since they were kids, and she believed she would marry him, it made the anniversary of his death overwhelming.
Hence her decision to focus on her therapy, do what she had to in school, and when Henry stopped pursuing her, romantically or as friends, she didn’t try to keep things going. Especially since he outright said he felt strung along, and that probably hurt more than she verbalized. Though at the same time, she warned him multiple times, and he didn’t listen.
But, in the end, it seems they can be friendly. It isn’t clear if, after graduation, they may ever talk, but with a piece of paper, from a sonnet book she lent Henry, that he burned at Dom’s grave, she lets him know she is healing.
Oh, and as for Cora and La, they end up together. Not sure what may happen after graduation, but from winter to summer, they’re together as Henry seemingly is single and avoiding Grace until the last day of classes.
If anything, I’d more so love to see a prequel featuring what happened to Cora and La when they first hooked up, as well as Dom and Grace’s relationship. For with Dom being such a noted presence, but mostly through third party stories, it felt like you got the weight of Grace’s loss, but if you haven’t lost someone like that, you got brought all the weight but may not be pushed to tears. Also, considering Grace’s relationship with her mom, and no mention of her dad, there is so much omitted to explore.
So it would be interesting to see that and, maybe, in the end, give us an idea of what Grace and the rest were doing past the summer of senior year.