24th Dec2019

‘Heartstrings’ Review (Netflix)

by Rhys Payne

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Having been an (albeit relaxed) fan of Dolly Parton for some while, I was so excited to watch her new Netflix original series Heartstrings and the series gave me everything it needed to and more!

Heartstrings completely captures the essence of Dolly Parton through and through. This means that if you are a fan of hers then you HAVE TO watch this series as it revolves around her career, songs and life. Each episode is based on important themes that I know Dolly personally feels passionate about such as religion, the supernatural, family and feminism. The latter being one of the key themes in this series, one very memorable scene on this idea is where an impassioned character gives a strong message about the ‘damsel in distress’ trope. All these themes are very on-brand for Dolly Parton and it was great to see a show that was so specific to the legendary artist while also being general enough for everyone to get something from the show. Every episode opens with Dolly Parton introducing the episode complete with her wearing very on brand and iconic costumes that fans of hers will really enjoy.

As I have already mentioned Heartstrings is all about Dolly Parton, in fact, each episode is named after one of her legendary songs and shows the stories of the songs. These include songs such as ‘Sugar Hill’, ‘Two Doors Down’ and ‘These Old Bones’ which all songs that people may have forgotten about and it is promoting Dolly’s work which is essentially what the whole purpose of the show is. Each episode has the title of the song but also used the actual song as the background music – which is a very clever creative choice which works extremely well. One of the highlights of this musical inspired episodes was the opening one titled ‘Jolene’ where is starts by telling the story behind this song that many people know of but don’t know the story behind it. The greatest thing about this episode was that it didn’t just create the ‘home-wrecker’ that many people associate with Jolene but instead it shows a human side and shows her personal issues and struggles which is obviously is a fantastic thing to see.

Although the episodes are based on older songs the stories are still relevant and deal with real-life important issues that still affect people today. Due to the realistic nature of the episodes, the entire series is very emotional and will probably have you experiencing a wide range of feelings and most probably will have you crying at least once an episode. There are episodes that discuss things such as gender identities, family acceptance and heritage – with one specific episode that deals with a gay coming out story that was extremely emotional and real. Obviously, that is an extremely relevant story even today and can only benefit any LGBT+ viewers who are watching this series.

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Every episode in Heartstrings follows the same structure: Dolly Parton introducing the episode and song and then the actual narrative which makes it very easy to follow and is a clever way to make this show even easier to watch which the creative team should be praised for! The episodes themselves are very long they are an hour long and normally I do not like this length of the programme as it means you have to put aside a lot of time just to watch the series. But these episodes are so realistic, and build in a natural way, that means you easily get attached to characters and also you get extremely invested into the stories. The final episode in this series was 1.5 hours long which in my opinion was way too long even for this series as this is the equivalent of a short children’s movie.

Overall, Heartstrings is a cleverly made series that really plays of Dolly Parton and everything that is attached to her. It is honest, real and emotional that keeps the audience engaged throughout but despite all this I don’t think they should produce a second series as I think it will take away from the impact of the first series. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Dolly Parton and wants to expand their knowledge of her!

****½  4.5/5

Heartstrings is available to watch on Netflix now.

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