In a Heartbeat: a review of hearts skipping a beat

by Mark Joseph Fernandez

 

Boy meets girl. One or both fall in love. They face challenges along the way. In the end, they may or may not have a happily ever after. This is how romance is typically portrayed in mainstream media. But have you ever wondered how a story can go if the plot commences with girl meets girl, or boy meets boy?

“In A Heartbeat” is a short animated film created by Esteban Bravo and Beth David about a boy who has a crush on another boy in his school. There are a lot of things that make this short special resulting in us, and possibly millions of its audience, skipping a heartbeat.

Let’s start from the beginning. Produced at Ringling College of Art and Design as part of their senior thesis requirement, “In A Heartbeat” was funded via a Kickstarter Campaign. Creators were aiming to raise a decent USD 3,000 budget but it garnered over 400 backers raising a total amount of USD 14,191. It already won a lot of hearts before it could even be released.

Beth David and Esteban Bravo, creators of “In A Heartbeat.” Photo by Animal Politico

The story is also a brave move to speak about LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) love – something that hasn’t been widely tackled in cinemas let alone animated films. A shy ginger haired boy, Sherwin, is seen at school secretly watching the handsome Jonathan walk by. Sherwin’s heart starts beating so rapidly it pops out of his chest to chase Jonathan. Sherwin is able to stop his heart from reaching Jonathan with little awkward contact with him. However, his heart manages to escape once again. Sherwin catches it and pulls it by the hand but not in time before it is able to hold on to Jonathan’s finger. Other students stare in disdain as this happens and as Sherwin’s heart breaks into two. Sherwin runs away with the other half and hides behind a bush. He sits reflectively when Jonathan approaches him, gives him his heart back. It turns whole again and the short fades into black with only their two hearts beating and becoming one.

Without any dialogue, the short delivers brilliant storytelling with the help of the musical score by Arturo Cardelús. It took us on a rollercoaster ride of emotions from the excitement Sherwin felt when he saw Jonathan, the thrill of the chase, the unexpected revelation, to the embarrassment, and finally, the pain and the hope of being able to heal all in four minutes. The slight lighting inconsistency also contributes, as the film’s grading is light when the heart is cheery and turns black when it feels insecure, pressure and pain.

At the time of writing, “In A Heartbeat” has already been recognized by multiple international award-giving bodies and has exploded on Youtube with almost 30 million views. But what really stood out for us is how such a simple narrative can be so beautifully told with such a strong message. While watching the short, you can’t help but relate to the characters especially Sherwin. It’s probably because at some point you have also experienced being frightened to love, to take the jump, to be exposed and to get hurt – universal feelings that any human being can go through regardless of his or her sexual preferences. And yet until this day, the LGBT community faces a lot of uncertainties in expressing their feelings for fear of ridicule and even isolation. What this short has successfully achieved in telling us is the truth that we are all the same. At the end of the day, no matter who you choose, love is love.

 

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