Heartstopper (the Netflix Show)

Heartstopper Netflix poster

I adored the Heartstopper graphic novel when I read it two years ago. So I was thrilled to discover that the Netflix TV show version is one of the best comic adaptations I’ve ever seen.

Heartstopper is all about cute boys in love, and it’s wonderful. It’s written by Alice Oseman based on her own graphic novels and directed by Euros Lyn.

It’s incredibly faithful, but not detrimentally so, and the changes it makes — primarily expanding the cast — are terrific additions. Speaking of the casting, I didn’t think two people could be such perfect versions of the comic come to life as Joe Locke as Charlie and Kit Connor as Nick.

Heartstopper lead boys

The comic isn’t drawn particularly realistically (although the emotions are incredibly truthful), concentrating instead on emotion and a rough feeling of immediacy. That emotion has been translated with wonderful graphic touches, such as a brief burst of drawn stars and hearts erupting when a character suddenly sees another in a new way. Key sequences are copied beautifully, with affecting visuals and a well-chosen soundtrack taking the place of monologues. Each version uses its own medium effectively.

I don’t think you need to know the comic to enjoy the show. The story is simple, set in a British school. Charlie is out. He makes friends with Nick, a rugby lad. Charlie develops feelings for him but thinks he’s straight. Nick develops feelings back but needs to figure out how to deal with them.

Heartstopper Netflix poster

Charlie’s friends, Tao, Isaac, and Elle, are protective of him. Elle is much expanded from the comic, as we see more of her time in a new school after her transition. (Isaac is new, and we’ll learn more about him in future.)

Elle also provides a way to show Tara and Darcy’s relationship earlier on. The way they act with each other and their friends makes for an intriguing parallel with Charlie and Nick. Imogen is also a new character, a girl who asks Nick out and provides some conflict while showing what a nice guy Nick is. (Another key change is that some of the profanity of the comic has been removed, to allow for a younger audience.)

The show did a terrific job bringing the positivity and happiness of the comic to the screen. Both are about the importance of small moments, and both are so supportive of such a variety of journeys to find oneself.

The Heartstopper show has eight half-hour episodes that cover the first two graphic novels. It’s already been renewed for two more seasons.

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