The Happy Ending Project: Sofie and Emilie in “Heartless”

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This week’s happy ending pairing comes from Denmark and the show Heartless, which originally aired in 2014. The teenage couple consists of Sofie Nielsen, played by Julie Zangenberg, and Emilie Just, played by Julie Christiansen. Heartless, which can be seen on Netflix right now, is an interesting concept: it’s Scandanavian film noir meets supernatural meets dramatic and gloomy shots of the Danish countryside. It’s Gothic and teen angsty. It’s also a lesbian Romeo and Juliet meets “Lost Girl: The Teen Years.” Do I have your attention yet?

Heartless | © Fridthjof Film

Heartless | © Fridthjof Film

 

Orphaned siblings Sofie and Sebastian are a succubus and an incubus, respectively. They are driven to feed on the energy of mortals in order to live, but if they go too far their victims burst into flames (I know, I don’t get it either). Searching for answers about their past and this unnatural hunger, they end up at Ottmannsgaard, a boarding school in the middle of nowhere.

Things are more than they appear to be at the school, however, and as Sofie and Sebastian go deeper into their own history (which involves witches and a family curse), Sofie develops a relationship with Emilie, the headmaster’s daughter. Of course, love is hard when kissing your girlfriend might kill her, so the two set out to find the cure. Because the show only went one season, Sofie and Emilie’s relationship is like a chocolate truffle: it was delicious, but you wish it tasted the same but was twice as big so you could have savored it for longer. Based on the show’s ending, it looks like “Heartless” was set up for a second season that ended up not happening. Boo.

The Good:

  • Both Julies shine in their roles in different ways. Julie Christiansen really makes Emilie’s attraction to Sofie tangible, while Julie Zangenberg masterfully constructs Sofie as being like a slightly wild animal: fearful, defensive, and withdrawn, but also strong when necessary and dangerous. Zangenberg chose to dye her hair red like a lioness for the role, and it was an inspired decision.
  • Emilie looking at Sofie across the cafeteria in the first episode is every young lesbian. Julie Christiansen in all her scenes really nails high school infatuation. In their brief scenes of happiness as a young couple, Sophie and Emilie are adorable. Even when unhappy, Sophie does a bad job of pretending not to be jealous when another suitor tries his hand at wooing Emilie.
  • It’s always heterosexuals who are the protagonists of epics. Belle helps break the curse for the Beast, for example. If there’s a problem, straight people solve it. Not in this story. In this story, Sophie and Emilie are the key.

The Bad:

  • Emilie is clearly all for Sofie from the moment that she sets eyes on her, but because Sofie doesn’t always emote outward and keeps herself tightly controlled (you would too if kissing your girlfriend for even a minute would result in spontaneous human combustion), sometimes she doesn’t seem as interested in or as committed to Emilie. This can be frustrating, such as when Emilie has to all but chase her around to get a kiss, and also sometimes leaves space to wonder in the beginning how much Sofie actually returns Emilie’s affections.
  • “Heartless” sets up a good mythology and weaves an interesting story. However, because the show has so few episodes (it was a small budget production), there is some connective tissue missing from Sofie and Emilie’s relationship that likely would have been present in a longer show. For example, Emilie’s pursuit of Sophie and Sophie’s reaction to that (although to be fair, in high school most relationships are U-Haul relationships). We get flashes of the relationship, but we don’t ever get more than a few minutes of the two characters together on screen, which is a pity. The high points are covered and viewers can easily infer the rest using some imagination, but it would have been nice to have some screen time for it as well. All told, Sofie and Emilie’s scenes together clock in at about half an hour, although other scenes with the characters are worth watching as well.
  • There are a lot of fencing scenes (is Denmark really that into fencing? Because at my high school in the US we pretty much just walked slowly around the track for gym class.), but as a fencer, it irks me that they’re not actually fencing right. If you fence, too, just don’t look.

Overall grade: B. Everything about the show and the pairing of Emilie and Sofie works well, and it’s nice to have the same-sex couple as the heroes of the story. That said, selfishly, it would have been nice for them to have had more time together on screen. Overall, this pairing requires all but no time investment (unlike a soap opera, which may eat weeks of your life) but doesn’t pack as satisfying a punch as something longer.

Unsubstantiated internet rumor has it that some foreign channels, including in the US, were considering doing their own native versions of the show, which would be great if they went with a longer season or multiple seasons, although I liked the two Julies as Sofie and Emilie. Come on, Netflix, this is right up your alley!

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