The reboots really shouldn’t be as good as the new Netflix High heartbreak.
It’s the best Australian YA show in years and worthy of carrying the brand that resonated around the world in the 90s.
Some shows work because of the script or the direction or the cast, but there is a synergy here that burns on the screen to elevate the show to the next level.
Set once again at Hartley High (and filmed in a Maroubra high school like the original), this melting pot of rebellious working-class kids bounces around in all sorts of anarchic, omnisexual ways.
The center of the universe is no longer Nick (as famously played by Alex Dimitriades) but Amerie (Ayesha Madon), a brash and loud teenager who has fallen out with her best friend Harper (Asher Yasbincek).
Both are behind an “incest map” mural that maps who-has-connected-with-who (shades of The word l right there), spilling everyone’s secrets like a sordid Bridgerton gossip sheet. It is a scandal to rival Knox Grammar, with an actual stick of dynamite ignited under the school’s social fabric.
Amerie has managed to piss off most of her classmates in one fell swoop, and her chance at getting class heartthrob Dusty (Josh Heuston) is fading more and more.
“That map is a real dog, man. I just think you need to do some work on yourself away from us,” teen lesbian Sasha (Gemma Chua-Tran) tells her.
If anyone is on his side, it’s non-binary, intelligent teenager Darren (James Majoos) whose single parent wants them to spend more time with their father (original cast member Scott Major returns). Darren is also having secret sex with Ca$h (Will McDonald), grappling with his identity.
Proud Bundjalung boy Malakai (Thomas Weatherall) is also attracted to Amerie as he faces school humiliation, rejection from Harper and lack of attention from Dusty.
Not to forget school principal Woodsy (a scene-stealing Rachel House) who clutches her little dog while snapping orders to keep the kids in line, the funded school and fantastic teachers like English teacher ‘Jojo’ (Chika Ikogwe ) to the academic curriculum.
There are other parents and guardians to be found too, like the one played by Ben Oxenbould and a grandmother with attitude played by the fantastic veteran Maggie Dence.
This ensemble is on fire and they make this series sing.
Ayesha Madon is bold, funny, and a lovable fanatic in Amerie, handling scenes of vulnerability and resilience with ease. James Majoos is an absolute find like Darren who, like JoyKurt Hummel’s manages to rise above the pedestrian beige of the world around them, with a biting quip or insight beyond their years.
“We are beautiful exquisite jellyfish. Of course they saw us…”, they purr.
Thomas Weatherall is also solid as the quiet, charming Malakai you know Amerie needs to connect with.
The beauty of this set-up is that there is a tapestry of storylines yet to emerge from the talented ensemble, including autistic teenager Quinni (Chloe Hayden) pursuing Sasha, or Ca$h adapting to fellow alpha males while they break the law.
Creator Hannah Carroll Chapman and writers Megan Palinkas, Matthew Whittet, Marieke Hardy, Meyne Wyatt, Thomas Wilson White and Natesha Somasundaram pack a punch in this reboot. They address sexuality, consent, peer pressure, self-esteem, inclusion, rejection, family, and more.
It bounces with the energy of directors Gracie Otto, Neil Sharma, Jessie Oldfield and Adam Murfet, crackling with a fantastic soundtrack and dripping with color from the set and costumes.
Because it nails the language of Gen Z kids, it never loses the straight Aussie flavor that the original has become so famous for.
Sure, it’s no longer the unspeakable teacher-student love story of the original (how have we ever seen that as romantic?), but this High heartbreak deserves to be seen by fans of Sex education, Heartstopper, Euphoria and the missing ones Puberty blues.
Everything clicks. An inspired reboot that deserves an early renewal, please.
High heartbreak is now showing on Netflix.