Queer cinema has come a long way. Complex gay characters now grace our screens, where once they were the comic relief, or worse, completely unheard of. While Brokeback Mountain, Moonlight, and Call Me by Your Name have received critical acclaim, all are tinged with sadness; a theme all too common in gay films that its become almost cliché. Love, Simon bucks this by being a genuinely funny, young-adult mainstream coming-of-age dramedy, that just happens to have a gay protagonist.
According to Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), he’s just like any other seventeen-year-old boy, only he’s keeping his true sexuality a secret. He has a seemingly perfect life, coming from a loving family and has several close friends: Leah (Katherine Langford) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), both of whom he’s known since kindergarten, and Abby (Alexandra Shipp), the newest member of his circle. Under the pseudonym of “Jacques,” he begins conversing with another closeted student online and soon develops a crush on him. Naturally, he wants to find out who this person, who goes by the alias “Blue”, really is. The film cleverly has Simon imagining the potential candidates reading out the emails being sent to him.
By chance these email exchanges are spotted by Martin (Logan Miller), a socially inept classmate who blackmails Simon in order to get closer to Abby. To say that Martin is bad is too simplistic, and Simon doesn’t get away clean either, manipulating his friends in an effort to prevent being outed to the whole school.
Director Greg Berlanti nicely depicts the difficulty some may experience growing up as gay and having to tackle the “coming out” process. Simon’s sexuality isn’t treated as a footnote, instead being a central part of the story without making it the character’s defining feature. Robinson delivers a very natural performance, wonderfully conveying excitement when he first encounters Blue online, those nervous and jittery moments when talking to the guys he likes, and the intense internal tug-of-war of deciding when to come out… or if he even should. The rest of the cast similarly wouldn’t be out of place in a real high school; a slight shame then that we don’t find out too much more about them as characters.
Fans of the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda will be pleased to know that this is a largely faithful adaptation, streamlined to fit a 110-minute runtime. Naturally, it also means that a certain criticism some may have leveled at the book – a story that touches on the difficulties of coming out, but one that’s also from the point of view of a white boy coming from a largely well off and accepting family and community – is also carried over. Nevertheless, the film’s message of acceptance is potent and inspiring, not only to queer teens, but to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider. It is the emotional, charming, humourous and all-important normalcy with which Love, Simon presents the plight of those that may feel “different” that makes it a stand out in the Y.A. rom-com genre.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10