A teen girl losing her virginity is the central plot point in many teen films (see: Little Darlings; Cruel Intentions; anything with Seth Rogen in it…) But in Netflix’s new teen heartstopper Chambers, it’s just the inciting incident. The series’ main character Sasha decides to give it up to her boyfriend TJ. Mid-orgasm, or around there how would I know, she’s violently rocked by a heart attack. Her boyfriend, terrified, rushes her to the hospital where she receives an emergency heart transplant.
She’s brought back to life, but at a cost. The donor, a dead teen named Becky, and the mysterious circumstances that surround her death, become an all-consuming obsession for Sasha post-recovery, as she increasingly sinks deeper into her donor’s former life.
Becky’s family – and her mom, played brilliantly and feverishly by Uma Thurman as a sweaty yoga mom (her best role since Nymphomaniac) – offers Sasha a scholarship to send her to Becky’s former private school. There, she adopts Becky’s friends, hobbies and creepy diary. The weird escalates when Sasha begins hearing voices, experiencing heart murmurs and seeing Becky in the flesh. It begs the question: is Becky really all that dead?
Chambers, created by Leah Rachel, is not so much Cronenbergian body horror (though there are smatterings of it) as it is a serpentine exploration of what is real in death. It has elements of darkness to it, but not in a campy Riverdale way, and each episode’s ending launches you breathlessly into the next. Identity politics quietly underscore the series in the displacement of an indigenous person – Sasha is Apache and lives on a reservation – into an affluent, white world. But it doesn’t force that narrative so much as highlight it for the viewer to digest, when he or she isn’t reeling from the insanity of its twisted plot.
Chambers is released on Netflix on April 26