Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.
Which, in the world Young Hearts convincingly inhabits, means the sometimes thrilling, sometimes confounding days of pre-pandemic high school life.
Young Hearts debuted at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival — under the less generic title Thunderbolt in Mine Eye. (The latter is a snippet of Shakespeare from early in As You Like It, which plays a supporting role in the movie.)
At the time, Thunderbolt probably played like a charming Gen-Z rom-com, detailing the slings and arrows of one too-young couple’s first love — and first inescapable heartbreak.
But now, watching guileless, gawky, anxious kids endure history class, trade petty gossip, play video games, maneuver their way through packed parties, explore their sexual awakenings — even do their homework in their rooms — packs an unexpectedly poignant punch.
Our guides through this remember-when idyll have known each other almost all their lives — ever since Harper (Anjini Taneja Azhar) was adopted from India at age 3 and moved in across the street from Tilly (Quinn Liebling).
Harper’s a smart, outspoken, basketball-playing freshman — the type who attracts the attention of a popular upperclassman. (Just so he can ask her to do his homework, of course.)
Her older brother Adam (Alex Jarmon) is best buds with Tilly, a gentle, curly-topped drama nerd who’s spending his sophomore year obsessing over his pivotal role in the school’s upcoming production of (you guessed it) As You Like It.
One night, at a gathering neither feels particularly comfortable attending, Harper and Tilly take the first tentative steps toward what they assume will be a lifetime of blissful togetherness.
Alas, inevitable pressures from inside and outside their magic bubble threaten Harper and Tilly’s not-so-unshakable bond. (Among the latter obstacles: society’s still-going-strong double standard and teenagers being their unavoidably immature selves.)
Sister-and-brother directors Sarah and Zachary Ray Sherman (working from a script by Sarah Sherman) give Young Hearts a relaxed, low-key vibe that puts the characters’ sturm-und-drang emotions in quietly amusing perspective.
The presence of mumblecore pioneers Mark and Jay Duplass as executive producers also signals the movie’s genial appeal.
Most of all, however, Young Hearts benefits from the individual performances of — and palpable chemistry between — Azhar and Liebling.
Separately and together, they capture the bittersweet challenges of finding someone special — while finding yourself — with endearing awkwardness.