- Movie Rating -

Chemical Hearts (2020)

| August 24, 2020

Half an hour into Chemical Hearts I got very impatient.  The movie’s opening scenes seemed so dreamy and so slow-going and so full of themselves that it reminded my of what I hated about the work of John Greene whose adaptations of Paper Town and The Fault in Our Stars were aggravating exercises in pop-teen angst without substance or even common sense.

I started to sense that here but movie toward the film’s center section, I was surprised the find that the movie earns the deliberate pace of those opening scenes and becomes something far more thoughtful.  This is not a great film, but it has substance.  It also has twists and turns that never feel like plot manipulation but more like the kinds of random combinations that real life is heir to.

Based on a reasonably successful YA novel by Krystal Sutherland (unread by me), the film’s hero is Henry Page, a thoughtful kid whose aspiration is to be a writer.  The only problem is that he has nothing to write about because he hasn’t lived a life of experience.  Enter Grace Town (Lili Reinhart), a sullen new girl at whose life bodes a dark past.  She’s interesting.  She nurses a broken heart, walks with a cane and is a fan of the works of Pablo Neruda.

The budding of their relationship is really only seen from his point of view.  She comes with a packed bag of problems that are only parceled out over the course of the movie, and it may be tempting to assume that it is because Richard Tanne’s screenplay needs to stretch the drama out to feature length, but this is a much smarter movie than that.

The back half of the movie rewards your patience through the first hour.  The reasons for Grace’s trauma, how she came to acquire a bum leg and why she is so morose are laid out beautifully and reasonably.  You don’t feel that you’ve been held off from a Big Reveal for drama sake.  Instead you feel that you’ve been privy to the kinds of messed-up drama that only makes sense when you’re a teenager.  And ultimately, that’s what this movie is trying to be.  It isn’t about kids who are Trying to Change the World or experiencing That Summer When My Life Changed Forever.  It’s about the kinds of melancholy that only seem important when you’re a teenager, when life is a confusing series of new emotions and and new experiences that you aren’t quite sure how to deal with.

I can’t say that I’m in love with Chemical Hearts.  Far too often it plays a lot of obvious notes that could have used some subtly – Henry’s hobby is putting broken vases back together, get it — and here comes Grace with a broken soul, get it.  But I admired a great deal of the film.  I admired its journey through the caverns of teenage emotions.  I admired the day to day journey that the film became.  Most of all, I admired the fact that it was a journey.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2020) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized