Purple Hearts review: Netflix convinces an entire app that a questionable relationship is a love story


Knox Tamhankar

Purple Hearts is a harmful portrayal of modern-day romance.

Sarah Holzman, Perspectives Editor

This story contains spoilers for the Netflix original Purple Hearts.

Netflix released its newest problematic and slightly offensive project this summer. Its initial trailer, which debuted on July 12 portrayed the film Purple Hearts as the greatest love story of our time. With the initial influx of positive reviews, Tiktoks and ratings, you would think that the movie would be good or at least enjoyable. Spoiler alert, it was not.

The success of this movie lasted about a week before people began drawing attention to its harmful undertones. It is surprising it even lasted that long, but the timing of the film’s release can not go unnoticed. With communities such as BookTok trending, the romance genre has been upgraded. These changes have received a lot of positive feedback from readers but also influenced what people want in romance stories. Media used to just be media, but now, everything is a fly trap for one of TikTok’s greatest feats: tropes. 

Enemies-to-lovers, marriage-of-convenience and slow-burn are all tropes that appeared in this movie. Unfortunately, they were not portrayed well. As soon as Purple Hearts was released on July 29, videos on TikTok were saying that this movie was made for the readers of the world, specifically those on BookTok. The backbone of the film was its promotion, which was part of its brief success. Once people watched the movie and saw the context behind why the two main characters, Cassie and Luke, were “enemies” and the lack of burning in their slow-burn story, viewers realized that this was not the romance it was made out to be. 

Here is a quick rundown of the movie: A girl and a boy meet and hate each other and make an agreement, despite their lingering hostility towards one another, that they both can benefit from. Both the girl and boy still hate each other, but are now married and all of a sudden they fall in love with each other. 

The first notch on a page-long list of the most upsetting parts of the movie was its missed potential. The leading actors were Sofia Carson, who is best known for her work on the Disney hit, Descendants, and a fresh face, Nicholas Galitzine. This film could have been a great project to add to their résumé. For Carson, it would be an opportunity to drop the bold and everlasting “Disney” stamp on her career and Galitzine could have had the chance to put his name on the board. His name did gain its recognition but not for good reasons. The movie is so much more than poorly structured. 

Cassie and Luke, the not-so-lovey love birds are not compatible at all. Cassie, who has type one diabetes, is angry with America’s healthcare system. Luke, who is a patriotic Marine, believes that she should not even think about getting the healthcare she needs in a deceitful way. This was one of the first interactions that caused a loud alarm to go off in my head. 

Cassie’s story line could have been a great way to draw attention to the struggle that people go through to get the proper care and medicine they need. Yet, this detail is forgotten as soon as she and Luke get married and she has access to better health insurance. Not everyone has those resources and to use her condition as a way to further a mediocre romance is upsetting.

Along with ignoring her medical situation, producers also drop her morals. Cassie’s character was supposed to be a confident, outspoken and a strong-willed feminist. That all goes out the window though about a quarter into the movie. After Luke is deployed, Cassie gains great respect for the Marines, but she also stops caring about all of the harmful parts of America. It seems as though they do not matter because they stopped affecting her- which is a terrible perspective. The very systems she once condemned are ones she grew to not only tolerate but support. They are the same as they were before she met Luke, she just stopped caring.

Cassie’s flakey character is not the only problem, Luke has his own flaws. Truthfully, most of what is wrong with the movie is because of him. He was not open to accepting any views other than his own, and he was disrespectful when disputing them. He had no regard for the effect his words had on people and often made Cassie feel like she was wrong for expressing her morals, even though he did the same.

From the beginning of the movie to the end, Luke had no character growth. Even though Cassie’s character progressed backward, she at least experienced some change. He stayed the same without any development. Proof of this is the fact that he not only stayed friends with someone who made hurtful and racist remarks, but he defended him. 

Another topic worth mentioning is the title of the movie itself. Purple Hearts are medals that members of The United States Armed Forces receive when they are injured or killed in action. These medals are very well respected. 

Although Luke was injured while he was deployed, this choice seems like another plot device to get the characters close. Naming the film Purple Hearts and glossing over one thing that makes the title appropriate, feels disrespectful to those who have been injured while in the military. If the movie had another purpose for injuring Luke, other than to allow Cassie an opportunity to take care of him, it would have been more understandable. 

In addition, some critics believe that the title is a play on their opposing political views- Democratic- or blue- for Cassie, and Republican- or red- for Luke. If you mix the colors together it makes purple, which makes the name Purple Hearts seem even more disrespectful to the actual medal. 

These issues and many more, lead to a bigger discussion: the distinction between portraying and glorifying an unhealthy relationship.

Not every romantic relationship in media has to be perfect- in fact, showing imperfect relationships is realistic. If a filmmaker decides to create a tumultuous relationship, it should be their job to portray it as such. Make your audience know that it is a bad pairing. Do not trick them into wanting a partnership like the one they see. 

In real life, Cassie and Luke would never work. Their opinions on fundamental ideas are opposites and they are not good for each other. They never addressed that they do not agree on many topics, they never even talked about it again- except for the many times Luke made jokes aimed at her. Luke barely gave Cassie a compliment for the entire duration of the movie because he was too busy calling her names based on her political views. 

Purple Hearts could have been a wonderful commentary on the balance between dating and morals, or even on the importance of having respect in a relationship, but the producers completely missed their chance. Instead, the movie turned into something closer to a horror movie about love, rather than a great romance.