This movie misses an opportunity to craft a more realistic portrayal of the teen years, which seems to be its intention, by striking an excessively melancholic tone.
One telling scene is when Grace discovers a suicide theme within the books on a teacher's syllabus. The books -- The Catcher in the Rye and Ordinary People among them -- have something else in common: they portray the teen years as generally sad and ultimately scarring.
Chemical Hearts conveys that mood in its languid pace, memorable nighttime scenes at an abandoned mill, a graveyard, and a Halloween party, and visual analogies like Grace's leg scars and Henry's broken ceramics.
The lead actors (Lili Reinhart and Austin Abrams) both offer sensitive performances that capture the hole Grace finds herself in and pulls Henry temporarily into. The problem is that the film wants to generalize about teens, yet Grace is the exception rather than the rule. This is captured in the generally vivacious background characters, whose stories unfortunately go largely unexplored.
Chemical Hearts opens with a quote: "You're never more alive than when you're a teenager." The line works as almost a caveat, a way of justifying character actions or emotions that might come across as, well, unrealistic.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.