Movie Review: 'Young Hearts'
Low budget, low watt, low energy, low entertainment to be found in teen romance, Young Hearts.
Most of us have nostalgia for a first love. You likely remember that first person who stirred up your hormones and with whom you enacted what you assumed a relationship was like. Adolescent fumbling's of first kisses and sexual experimentation are among the most universal of human memories. That said, most of us did not have the most cinematic experience. Sure, the lens of time has rendered the memories in a fashion that has kept the highlights, but it wasn’t exactly the thing a great narrative is built upon.
The new movie Young Hearts, or is it Thunderbolt in Mine Eye, there is some confusion there, banks heavily on our own romantic nostalgia. Telling the story of a fumbling teenage romance with as much painful detail as possible, the film borders on dreary as it drags its way through the drama teenagers enact upon each other when they are jealous or just bored. Directed by the brother and sister duo of Sara and Zachary Ray Sherman, the movie never justifies why this couple’s story aches to be told.
Young Hearts stars Anjini Taneja Azhar as Harper, a typical 14 year old girl who develops a crush on Tilly (Quinn Liebling), the best friend of her older brother, Adam (Alex Jarmon). Harper soon finds that the attraction is mutual and Harper and Tilly quietly begin a romance. Eventually, they go public and the bulk of this 80 minute feature deals with the fallout of Alex finding out that his best friend and his sister are a couple.
And that’s pretty much it. The movie is about the drama that teenagers enact upon each other when they are jealous or just bored. Thus we have Alex overdramatically abandoning his best friend, you have Harper’s friends abandoning her because all she talks about is her boyfriend and you have clueless parents who are barely involved while their kids are experimenting with sex and drugs.
Don’t be mistaken, nothing of much dramatic significance appears to happen. The kids smoke weed and have sex and nothing particularly dramatic comes of it. Now, that tends to be the experience of a majority of kids. I know society tends to panic over sexuality among teenagers but the reality is, most of the time, nothing comes of it. Kids have some mediocre sex, they pretend this makes them more like an adult and the world continues to turn.
From that perspective, Young Hearts has an authenticity that I can’t deny. That said, authenticity is nice but it’s not enough to sustain a movie, even one that is barely 80 minutes long. Young Hearts has a realistic feel but even our nostalgic fumbling's from our own lives can’t make Young Hearts compelling. Just because we kind of vaguely relate to what we see in Young Hearts doesn’t make for a story that’s worth sitting through.
There is nothing about the story of Harper and Tilly that carries a desperate need to be told. The stars are sweet and their good young actors but their story isn’t interesting. They have huge life experiences but they are treated in such mundane fashion that it’s hard to care much about it. While adhering to authentically presenting teen romance, the movie fails completely in capturing the heady, breathless excitement of these formative experiences.
That should be the whole point of Young Hearts. If it is not going to be a dramatic exploration of early sexual experimentation or offer important insights into these young characters, the film should, at the very least, capture the excitement of new experiences. And yet, the movie fails in this, favoring instead, awkward conversations and an adherence to the almost mundane notion of High School melodrama, petty jealousies and how two normal, not particularly charismatic, young people navigate those things and grow together and apart.
That could work as a movie but Young Hearts has no pulse. The movie has no life, little humor and no unique insight into teenage romance. The low budget, low watt aesthetic of Young Hearts strangles the movie into a mumblecore space so devoid of energy as to engender lethargy into the characters and into us as an audience. The movie is professionally made and the actors deliver the authentic qualities asked of them but this doesn’t make Young Hearts a movie worth experiencing.
For a better time, just daydream about your first love. Your memory will probably be more fun and exciting than what actually happened but it will also be far more fun and exciting than the movie Young Hearts. Young Hearts is in theaters now, as of February 12th, 2021, and will soon be available for On Demand rental services.