Everyone remembers being a teenager. Between puberty, parties, prom, and drama, it’s hard to forget. What some may not remember as clearly is the journey they went on to become who they are today. Finding out who you are is awkward, and the Sherman siblings wonderfully depict that and so much more in their new film.
Young Hearts follows teenagers Harper and Tilly, who have known each other since they were young kids. When Harper begins high school, she falls into a relationship with Tilly. The two teens face numerous challenges as their bond strengthens, including social expectations, sexist double standards, and difficulty maintaining friendships.
As a whole, the film feels reminiscent of Bo Burnham’s 2018 movie Eighth Grade, if it were a year or two more grown up. The two movies could exist in the same universe at the same time, as they tackle similar issues and take on a “slice-of-life” style of storytelling. That being said, Young Hearts feels wildly realistic and genuine, just as Burnham’s flick did. Seeing the issues of youths laid out in such a believable way helps highlight just how minuscule they seem when you’re an adult, while also acknowledging that at that age, they are crushing.
For writer and director Sarah Sherman, this film is an impressive debut. She has successfully written a movie with tons of heart, and she did so while directing with her brother, Zachary Ray Sherman. This is only a second directorial venture for Zachary, having previously directed and written 2019’s Barbie’s Kenny. The motion picture does an amazing job expressing what the teenage experience would be like in 2021 (or at least what I, a millennial, imagines it would be like now). One can hope for more imaginative yet palpable works from the brother sister duo in the near future.
Lead actress Anjini Taneja Azhar sports impressive acting chops for her role of Harper. Harper is a fiercely independent young woman who seems to know who she is about as well as anyone can at that age, and Azhar does her justice in her portrayal. Her role is likable, strong, and unique, and the young actress does a beautiful job. At only 19 years old, Azhar has not only acted, but also directed and written her own works. It is safe to say that viewers and fans can expect a long, impressive career from Azhar.
Lead actor Quinn Liebling is another young acting powerhouse in this movie. Playing Tilly, the 17-year-old expresses a deep wisdom with his performance that adult viewers will be sure to appreciate. His character is more awkward than Harper, and the two actors, along with their very different yet similar characters, work wonderfully together on screen. Liebling depicts the normal yet challenging struggles that young boys face when they begin a relationship with the opposite sex, namely struggles with maintaining friendships as well as a nonchalant reputation. At the same time, his character has experienced devastating losses, and the actor manages to depict both. It should be noted that this is Liebling’s first feature-length film, and an impressive one at that. The young star is yet another talent that should be watched.
Visually, there are shots featured in this movie that are simple yet striking. One particular moment of the two teens on a bench in a wooded area is visually appealing, showcasing the wide-open world that faces each of us when we grow older. Some scenes and imagery may be disturbing to some, while showing young kids drinking, smoking, or becoming intimate, but at the core they are innocent and lighthearted.
While the picture successfully reveals what normal life for teenagers involves, it sometimes feels like it is lacking a substantial plot, or dragging along. This is not often enough to diminish the experience that the film brings to the table, but viewers may find themselves seldom losing interest or wondering when the action will begin.
If you want to check out Young Hearts, it will be available in theatres and on demand beginning February 12, 2021, just in time for Valentine’s Day!