It feels like natural instinct to go ahead and say that Love, Simon would not look appealing because the trailers would already make it appear more like a cheesy romantic comedy – but for the many years that we have already had many straight romances flourishing, why not a gay one for once? I’m not only saying this as a queer but because I was never expecting much out of Love, Simon to begin with because of said factor. But on that level, I was surprised to have found a more thoughtful experience than I would have initially expected because I had always been skeptical of how the subject matter would be handled for a film that was geared towards teenage audiences. And if this is a sign that more people are willing to allow these voices to be heard, then I am perfectly okay with that.
While I was still in high school, I never came out the moment I discovered my own sexual awakening. I had it hidden for years already and right as I entered my final year of high school, that was where I decided to come out as a queer in front of my own friends. I say this first because when I watched Love, Simon, I remembered having gone through that experience myself – because Simon Spiers had remained in the closet for so long, only living with the fear that he would have his own image around school tarnished. It was scary to live under that fear, especially for myself, having grown up in a Catholic community surrounded primarily by conservative beliefs. In how perfectly Nick Robinson’s performance captures this very fear, it was enough to bring back memories of how scary that very feeling was from up close.
Simon’s friends have already established normal lives as they see them to be, but that’s a part of why Love, Simon manages to find a distinctive charm. It works because it never feels like a false perception of how teenagers behave on a normal day. It works because every actor fits perfectly to portray the roles that they’ve been given, and it isn’t merely limited to Simon’s friends who are already cast perfectly as they are. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are good – but to see that they don’t feel like caricatures of parents but as loving figures that only want the best for their children. It feels perfect for this environment that Love, Simon has built itself around, because it feels so tender, creating a perfectly empathetic environment around the way Simon sees the world.
This film doesn’t always work, with the way Logan Miller’s character is handled being one among many major setbacks. For how perfectly did Greg Berlanti manage to create an environment that empathizes with the teenage experience the way it did, Miller’s character feels so jarring because you already see him as a well-meaning dork yet once he ends up getting a hold of Simon’s e-mails, he becomes a shallow antagonist. He’s selfish, but that isn’t my problem with how his character is handled, rather instead it’s just how his arc turns out in the very end, because it just feels half-baked. It was disappointing because for every moment that the film already feels as if it is doing something that typical high school comedy-dramas would stray away from, he falls under that stereotype of their shallow antagonist given the scope of the damage his actions have done. While I appreciated that he wasn’t falling into the bully stereotype, what I wished more was that his character wasn’t just an annoying caricature.
Wherever Love, Simon works it feels like something refreshing, both to the memory and the coming-of-age genre. This is not a perfect movie, but in terms of tone and what it stands for, it feels perfect for the very moment. It feels perfect because it feels completely empathetic to the experience that gay teenagers would be fearing by the time they are ready to come out of the closet. And speaking as a queer who had only come out during graduation year, watching Love, Simon and seeing that it would allow many more to get an insight into that perspective only made me happy on the inside. Here’s hoping to see more films within the future that give people like Simon the voices that they need in our world. Love, Simon isn’t just a pleasant surprise, it’s beyond that.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox.
Directed by Greg Berlanti
Screenplay by Isaac Aptaker, Elizabeth Berger, from the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Produced by Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner, Pouya Shahbazian
Starring Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Keiynan Lonsdale
Release Year: 2018
Running Time: 110 minutes