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Warning: Content contains spoilers.
If you wish to view the short film first, please go to YouTube (its original publication place).
For years, there has been a demand to increase queer and trans representation in fictional media, especially in animated films. There’s something pure about animation, something that makes us remember when times were simpler. It often accomplishes this by perfectly compressing complex events into symbolism. “In a Heartbeat,” an animated short about a queer teen in his school years, does this brilliantly.
There are plenty of queer themes from high school that can be missed in a four-minute video, but “In a Heartbeat” manages to wrap up all the feelings that go along with a queer crush in a way that proves harmonious to the simplistic yet sentimental nature of animation. Without missing a heartbeat, the short film manages to show the stages of many first queer relationships in that span of time.
The main character harbors a crush for a seemingly more popular and outgoing boy, and this crush literally causes the main character’s heart to leap out of his chest and pursue the other boy. The awkward lengths to which the boy goes to prevent his heart from making any moves he isn’t ready for mirrors those encounters many queer people go through, such as making subtle hints and pushing things ever so slightly to prevent themselves from getting hurt.
The subtlety of the interactions may be lost on a non-queer audience.
The climax of the film shows the boy’s heart colliding with his love interest. The heart holds the love interest’s hand and the main character holds the heart’s hand. Other children stare on in apparent disgust or queasiness. Asking someone out and having it spread through rumors or displayed out in the open is a climactic moment in any queer person’s high school experience. Because of that fear and the surprised reaction of the love interest, the boy breaks the heart in half and runs away. This is reminiscent of many queer people’s first relationships. The pressure of coming out and the pressure of being seen on display is tremendous, especially when the feelings do not seem like they’re being reciprocated.
However, at the end of the film, the love interest comes back with the other half of the heart, placing it with the boy’s half and bringing it back to life. With this, the love interest’s heart lights up as well and they share a meaningful and heartfelt glance. The screen fades to black except for the pink of their hearts, which meld into one.
This short film is a beautiful depiction of an archetypical queer first relationship. Beth David and Esteban Bravo work as the creative heads of this film and execute their vision to a satisfying conclusion. With people clamoring for more queer adaptations to animated video, we can only hope that they are extended an opportunity to flesh out a full-length story on the big screen.