Movie Review: “Chemical Hearts”

“Chemical Hearts” — a film review by Gary Chew.

The motion picture genre most commonly and relentlessly marketed today to stream online or project on a withering cineplex screen is the totally packed action/hero slap down. Surely then, the probability that the second most routine release of new movies in the US has got to be the age-old, coming-of-age film. That’s what the newly arriving Chemical Hearts is.

Don’t merely jump to drug use since the word “chemical” is in the title. The chemicals refer to teenage hormones, not those “bodily fluids” General Jack Ripper mentions in a classic Kubrick movie. That makes Chemical Hearts a good lesson for 11 and 12-year-olds who are at the cusp of the swoosh and sway of onrushing new emotions overtaking a girl when she’s about 11 or 12 and a boy when he’s about 14 or 15… give or take.

Chemical Hearts‘ writer and director Richard Tanne plays that “girls mature earlier than boys” phenomenon quite believably. Lili Reinhart’s character, Grace, is plainly more mature and experienced than Henry. She’s even a tad taller than Austin Abrams, who got the role of Henry. You’ll learn in the single love scene Grace and Henry have in the picture that Henry’s a virgin; Grace, not so much.

Grace is skilled at leading Henry around by his newly arriving emotions to the point where he wants to learn more about her. Grace has recently transferred into his high school and they meet in the school newspaper class. There. they discuss which they’re better at: writing or editing. (I won’t spoil that for you).

Drilling down on the situation, clues are flying that things aren’t going well for Grace. At first glance, you’ll likely infer that she’s suffering a physical handicap. But wait. There’s more to it. Tanne lets that gradually slip out.

Grace is battling a serious sense of loss. This part of the plot gives the film a substance that could be edifying for people about to move on from teenie-boppery and enter the emotion-packed sphere of adulthood.

Lili Reinhart has had continuing exposure in the CW television teen drama Riverdale. Austin Abrams’ earlier exposure has primarily come through two other TV series: The Walking Dead and Euphoria.

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Gary Chew
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