Among the three-hour, exposition-heavy blockbusters it can be easy to forget how much can be done with just a few minutes and no dialogue at all. In a Heartbeat is one of those magical gems that conveys so much with precious little. It could also prove a game-changer in animated storytelling, with a rare exploration of LGBT+ romance.
The simple plot involves Sherwin, a schoolboy who quite literally cannot contain his feelings about a male classmate. Despite his fear and anxiety, his heart bursts from his chest and pursues the object of his affections, Jonathan – with funny, sweet results.
With a vivid, cartoonish, yet highly polished animation style accompanying the poignant tale, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the latest opener for a Pixar movie. It’s certainly up there in terms of quality. But crucially, freed from any studio reluctance, creators Esteban Bravo and Beth David are able to make both their protagonists gay.
What’s more, the setting here is a US high school and a key moment plays out in front of watching, muttering students. Each of these narrative decisions adds an extra layer of societal judgement and jeopardy to the already terrifying uncertainty of teenage love and sexuality.
Bravo and David’s tale has clearly connected with people. They raised more than four times their original Kickstarter goal of $3,000 to make the film – and in the first five days after its release, it had more than 17 million views on YouTube.
In a Heartbeat’s charming and uplifting tale of puppy love, with its soaring piano theme, has the power to melt even the frostiest heart. Perhaps it’s a touch idealistic in its simplicity, but what’s wrong with something to just make you feel good about the world? And maybe, in its small way, make the world better.
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DIRECTORS: Esteban Bravo, Beth David
WRITERS: Esteban Bravo, Beth David
MUSIC: Arturo Cardelús
SOUND DESIGN: Nick Ainsworth
SYNOPSIS: A closeted boy runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams.