Love, Simon Review
Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he's gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity.
Simon Spier is -- as he describes himself -- a pretty normal kid, and with a pretty good life. He goes to school, hangs out with his friends and has a loving mother, father and sister. Just one problem: he’s hiding a secret from everyone, a secret he’s afraid to share -- Simon is gay.
Greg Berlanti directs the screenplay from Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker based upon the book, ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ written by Becky Albertalli and it marks the first big studio (20th Century Fox) film to feature a gay lead. You may be shouting, “but Dylan, there was Brokeback Mountain, Moonlight and there was Call Me By Your Name just last year.” And although you are correct to point out they are movies that feature gay characters, they are not produced by big feature film companies. But most importantly -- and the reason I think Love, Simon is so important -- is that all those films are targeted squarely at adults. Love, Simon is a teen rom-com and it’s not only one of the best in recent memory, but it also happens to portray an important message and feature a gay lead.
On a website (think it was Tumblr) one afternoon, Simon reads a message from an anonymous poster using the pseudonym ‘Blue’, writing about their big secret -- they’re gay, and no one knows. Simon relates and setting up his own pseudonym with ‘Jacques’ messages Blue as the two begin a back-and-forth in secret, discussing what it’s like to want to come out, but being afraid to do so. But one day the secret of their e-mails is nearly revealed and Simon has to struggle with what to do with his secret being so close to being released to the world, his parents, and his closest friends.
The coming of age story has been done to death. The coming of age story of a gay teenager, afraid to come out, hasn’t been.
What makes Love, Simon a joy to watch is the cast. Nick Robinson is a strong likeable lead backed up by his three closest friends who are all also funny, charming and generally likeable characters in Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. The four have a genuine chemistry that is hard to pull off in big friend groups in teen comedies. But the best thing about them is that they’re even decent role models. It was an exciting moment when I finished Love, Simon and realized none of the characters portrayed any particularly bad habits. I grew up watching teen comedies where there was at least that one friend in the group who was a bit of a bully, or a misogynistic a-hole, but in Love, Simon all of the characters are generally just good kids.
Simon’s parents, portrayed wonderfully by Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner, are upper-class and forward thinkers. They're not the type of people to disown their son for coming out and Simon in the film even says as much. He’s not afraid of their response. But it’s still a moment (of many) that I think audience members will find poignant when Simon’s father realises what an idiot he had been making jokes all these years. Either about Simon’s sexuality, or later about ‘what turned him gay.’
Love, Simon’s biggest and easiest criticism is that its struggle story for gay teens features a white lead, who lives in a somewhat luxurious life with a big house and supporting family. Although it’s true to say this isn’t the story of the average gay teen (Simon is undoubtedly privileged) it still features the core struggle and story that I believe anyone can relate too, gay, or not.
Recently in the news, there has been recent inspiration to look at John Hughes films with a closer eye and to (rightfully) point out his films problems with its female characters. But not since have Easy A have I watched a teen comedy that so oozed with that Hughsian film characteristics and feel we all can so easily point out. Love, Simon is that, but to it sets a higher standard than John Hughes films. It's characters are better.
Love, Simon sets a new standard for what teen comedies in this genre should look like. It’s inspirational, a joy, heart-warming and is a must watch for anyone who can relate to Simon Spier's story. A gem in a genre, usually stuffed with boring, paint-by-number caricatures of teen’s and their lives.
Directors: Greg Berlanti
Writers: Elizabeth Berger (screenplay by), Isaac Aptaker (screenplay by), Becky Albertalli (based upon the novel 'Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda')
Cast: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.