Cast: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford
Director: Greg Berlanti
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Everyone deserves a great love story. But for seventeen-year old Simon Spier it’s a little more complicated: he’s yet to tell his family or friends he’s gay and he doesn’t actually know the identity of the anonymous classmate he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing. Directed by Greg Berlanti (Riverdale, The Flash, Supergirl), written by Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth Berger (This is Us), and based on Becky Albertalli’s acclaimed novel, LOVE, SIMON is a funny and heartfelt coming-of-age story about the thrilling ride of finding yourself and falling in love.
As the first major studio teenage romance to focus on a gay teenager, Love, Simon has some pretty lofty expectations to meet if it wants to be considered amongst the great young adult movies instead of just a gimmick. Fortunately for us, Love, Simon delivers in a way that makes it stand out as not just a well-made gay movie, but a well-made, personal, and thoughtful movie regardless of the premise. While it can a little unbelievable at times, the heartfelt story and strong performances by the lead and supporting roles make this one of the most memorable young adult movies in years.
The story revolves around Simon Spier (Robinson) as he traverses the social and familial landscape of being a closeted gay 17-year-old. Simon has incredibly supportive parents Jack and Emily (Duhamel and Garner) and a great group of friends Leah, Abby, and Nick (Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) that make his day-to-day life seem pretty easy compared to most teenagers. Simon reveals his secret to a stranger online who also shares the same secret, Simon starts to develop feelings for this mystery man. As the story continues, Simon must make personal decisions that can impact everyone close to him in order to come to terms with who he really is. One of things that separates this movie from the rest of the films in the genre is the level of emotional investment that comes from the story. Robinson is excellent in the lead role and demonstrates the emotional range that someone in Simon’s situation is going through. There are certain times where Simon feels invincible and other times where he feels like the loneliest person on the planet, and this is very much due to the way Robinson handles the source material. The unsung hero of the movie is Duhamel, who gives us a perfect display of what a lot of modern homophobia looks like. He does not have a problem with Simon being gay, but throughout the film makes multiple comments that make Simon uncomfortable due the feeling of othering. While Nick views these comments as just playful jokes, he does not know the impact it has on Simon. Many people today, especially some of those close to gay people, can be homophobic in this way. They are not actively hateful or using gay slurs, but they make comments that can make others feel unwanted, even though that was not their intention. Duhamel is an amazing representation of this character through his careless yet well-meaning actions and shows that awareness of these actions can be enough to make people change.
While Love, Simon has a solid plotline from start to finish, it does not mean it is not without weak points. Many of Simon’s moments, specifically the ending, have a very Hollywood feel to them and it does not fit the natural feel of the rest of the movie. Every time something crazy or out of the ordinary happens, I remember that this is a work of fiction and not a documentary. Many people who have been in Simon’s situation will identify with the main portion of the story, but the ending may not resonate with many of the intended audience. Outside of that, I never felt as though we were shown the consequences of our antagonists’ actions. Some terrible, life-altering things are done to Simon, and we never see any backlash against the people who do it. A stern talking to and a half-hearted apology is not enough to repair the damage done and I think there should have been more of an emphasis on those actions. Show us that these type of actions are never okay and that you will and should suffer the consequences.
Overall, Love, Simon had lofty expectations to meet, and for the most part it did everything it was supposed to do. It showed us that regardless how all of us portray ourselves to others, we could be hiding something inside that prevents us from being who we truly are. I hope for the sake of the young adult genre that if having a gay lead actor becomes a more common story, that they do not fall into the same tropes that many straight love young adult movies have. Only time will tell for that, but for the time being Love, Simon is an excellent start to a promising new development in the young adult genre.
Overall Score: 8/10