Chemical Hearts aims to boil the angst and drama of teenage romance down to a science. And sure, you can offer up any explanation regarding the chemistry and brain waves of the body, but there’s still an emotional aspect that’s difficult to replicate. Regardless, the film still follows the same formula of many young adult adaptations, albeit with its own handful of variables to try and change things up to varying success.
Teenager Henry Page (Austin Abrams) believes that high school represents some of the most intense and formative years of a person’s life, and yet as he enters his senior year, nothing spectacular has happened to him. That all changes when Grace Town (Lili Reinhart) transfers to his school. For Henry it’s practically love at first sight, but Grace has her own baggage that she brings and isn’t looking to bring anyone else down with her. Still, the two get closer and closer over their senior year and Grace slowly is able to open up to Henry, who realizes that teenage romance isn’t always the happily ever after story kids dream about.
Based on the YA novel Our Chemical Hearts the film is a perfectly suitable adaptation of the teenage drama genre. It doesn’t really bring anything new genre; it almost feels like a mad libs where you could take any two characters, drop them into a town, give one of them some kind of disability, either social or physical, and make a teenage love story out of it. There’s nothing wrong with it, and Chemical Hearts is better than many.
It’s a little more realistic actually in that you can actually relate to the baggage and difficulties both characters bring to the relationship. For Henry, everything is new for him so he doesn’t quite know the right way to act sometimes. Grace, on the other hand, is more closed off and doesn’t want to be a burden to anyone else. As they say in the film, Henry is better at writing than talking while Grace is better at talking than writing. Opposites attract, right? Perhaps.
Even though it’s a film that’s based on a novel, Chemical Hearts feels more grounded than most YA content. Relationships are complicated and the film does a decent job at showing that, at least on a high school level. If you’re a fan of the genre you’ll be pleased with the film as it delivers exactly what someone would expect. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking. Formulas work, and Chemical Hearts takes advantage of that.