SDSU partners with Amazon Studios for virtual premiere screening of “Chemical Hearts”

Amazon Studios

“Chemical Hearts” stars Lili Reinhart and Austin Abrams, and can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.

by Aleah Jarin, Staff Writer

In partnership with San Diego State, Amazon Studios held a virtual premiere screening on August 19 via Amazon Screenings for the studio’s latest coming-of-age drama, “Chemical Hearts,” starring Lili Reinhart and Austin Abrams. 

“Chemical Hearts,” directed by Richard Tanne and executive produced by Reinhart, is the film adaptation of the book “Our Chemical Hearts” written by Krystal Sutherland. 

The film dives into the idea of “teenage limbo,” the gray area between childhood and adulthood, where being young is confusing and painful as teens are discovering themselves and dealing with emotional experiences, such as first loves and heartbreaks.

Yet, “Chemical Hearts” isn’t your typical young adult love story, it’s a raw and vulnerable portrayal of adolescence and teen relationships.

The film centers on 17-year-old Henry Page, played by Abrams, who meets Grace Town, played by Reinhart, while he is waiting for a meeting with the school newspaper advisor about becoming editor-in-chief. Grace is also waiting for the same position and the two end up becoming co-editors-in-chief of the paper. 

As the pair begin to work together, Henry instantly becomes intrigued by the mysteriousness of Grace and falls in love with her; it’s Henry’s first love. 

He soon learns about Grace’s past, such as the accident that caused her to walk with a cane, and her experience with loss and heartbreak. The two become emotionally connected but seem to be falling in love with the idea of each other.

During roundtable interviews hosted by Amazon Studios prior to the film’s virtual premiere screening, the director said he doesn’t view the film as a love story in the usual sense. 

“What I ultimately take away from (the film) is that not every romance is supposed to be a love story,” Tanne said. “I don’t think of this as a love story. I think this is a failed love story, it’s a failure because it’s two people who want each other for the wrong reasons.” 

However, Tanne said despite the characters’ unconventional dynamic, it was important to tell a story about this type of relationship.

“I thought it was important to tell a story about failing and having loss, and still being able to pick up the pieces and move on afterward,” Tanne said. “It doesn’t make the relationship any less meaningful…it shapes who (the characters) are.”

During Abrams’ roundtable interview, he talked about the things his character is going through in the film and how he can relate. 

“Henry is going through a fair amount of, I suppose, staples…a lot of emotions and dealing with a lot of things a lot of people do especially in their teenage years,” Abrams said. “That’s definitely something I could relate to just because I think that’s something everyone needs to figure out, especially at that age.”

Abrams also said he hopes this message is something the audience can take away as they navigate their own life. 

“I’m also hoping that [the message] is something that will maybe help other people navigate what not to do I suppose,” Abrams said. 

For Reinhart, her performance as Grace was fueled by her own experiences in “teenage limbo” in high school.

“I felt like I was entirely in limbo because I was wanting so desperately to be an actress and to pursue this career…I had such a passion for it, but on the other hand, I was still stuck in high school or this world that I felt wasn’t really understanding of me,” Reinhart said. 

Her ambition and career aspirations did not translate to her peers.

“To me, my teenage limbo was very much me feeling quite alone and confused as to whether or not I was following a path I should be because I chose a hard career to get into,” Reinhart said. 

However, Reinhart found a way to push through and acknowledged the resources available today that can help others who may be struggling.

“I think I had enough faith in myself that I pursued it and it happened,” Reinhart said.  “But, yeah, teenage limbo you’re just trying to figure it out…luckily now there are more resources for people who were like me and struggling in high school.

“There’s YouTube, TedTalks to watch, books to read, and celebrities and advocates to look up to that are speaking out about those things.” 

Reinhart also touched on her role as an executive producer and described what the process was like for her in contributing to the movie. 

“The book was presented to me and I was asked, ‘would you want to executive produce this?’ So the opportunity came along very organically,” Reinhart said. 

In explaining her vision for “Chemical Hearts,” Reinhart said she wanted it to express the realness of what teenagers go through every day.

“I wanted the film to be very specific; I wanted it to be not too close to the book,” she said. “I wanted it to be a little more raw…I felt like ‘oh okay, I should be an executive producer on this’ because I wanted to make sure my vision was portrayed.”

Her ultimate goal was to make sure the film did not come across to viewers as just another young adult, teen film. Reinhart wanted something much more grounded. 

While the film is emotional and heavy, there are still moments that make the audience feel good and appreciate the teenage years. “Chemical Hearts” captures the true essence of the teenage mind and their everyday experiences.  

“Chemical Hearts” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

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