CHEMICAL HEARTS (2020)

August 20, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. In the mid-1960’s Cat Stevens wrote the song “The First Cut is the Deepest.” It’s a beautiful and poignant song that has been a hit single for many artists, including Rod Stewart (1977) and Sheryl Crow (2003). Although the song is not associated with this film from writer-director Richard Tanne, I couldn’t stop thinking of it as the story unfolded – unsure if any teen romance has ever captured the sentiment with more emotional depth. The film is based on the 2016 novel, “Our Chemical Hearts”, by Krystal Sutherland.

Henry Page (Austin Abrams, PAPER TOWNS) is a high school senior, who proclaims as our narrator, “You are never more alive than when you are a teenager.” Henry also laments that “nothing remarkable” has happened in his life yet. That changes quickly the day the teacher-sponsor of the school newspaper calls Henry and new student Grace Town (Lili Reinhart, CW series “Riverdale”) into the office to inform them they will be co-Editors this year. However, the remarkable part for Henry isn’t achieving his goal of being Editor, rather it’s meeting Grace.

Grace is not nearly as excited as Henry for the assignment, but agrees to edit the paper as long as she doesn’t have to write. It turns out Grace is beyond damaged, she’s a shattered soul. A recent car crash took the life of her true love boyfriend, and left her leg severely damaged, instantly ending her track career. In contrast, Henry’s hobby is Kintsugi, an ancient Japanese tradition of re-assembling broken pottery. Yep, Henry is a fixer, albeit a sensitive one, and Grace is broken. Despite Henry’s best intentions, we see where this is headed.

Henry falls quickly and hard for Grace, though she’s much slower to come around. She’s grieving and filled with guilt, and Henry is simply too young to understand what she’s going through – although he gives all he can. Every teenager believes they have the strangest home life on the planet, but Grace may very well take the prize. Hormones, drama, romance, New Jersey, and Neruda’s “100 Love Sonnets” all play a role here, and mostly we are mesmerized by two outstanding young actors. Ms. Reinhart brings exceptional depth to a difficult role, and she and Mr. Abrams are terrific together. I watched this film back-to-back with another teen-drama-romance new release entitled WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS, and it’s extremely rare to find two such thought-provoking films centered on a pair of high school students … but quite a treat (although I believe all 4 actors are long past high school age).

Opens August 21, 2020 on Amazon Prime

watch the trailer: