Movie Review: ‘Love, Simon’
Director: Greg Berlanti
Cast: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale
Plot: Simon Spier has a perfectly normal life, but he has a secret that he’s never shared with anyone: he’s gay. When an anonymous student at Simon’s school posts an online confession, choosing to go by the name Blue, Simon reaches out and the two exchange a series of emails and begin to fall in virtual love. When Simon’s secret is revealed against his will, Blue disappears, and Simon struggles to adapt and come to terms with his identity both publicly, and privately with his family and friends. But Simon knows he deserves a happy ending, and he decides he must take a risk if he wants to find it, in person this time.
If I could sum up this film in one word, it would be charming. The story was charming, the characters were charming, the whole world of the film was charming, even in the lowest points of the story. Based on the 2015 bestselling novel Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is a heartfelt coming of age story that plays with the conventions of the high school rom-com, with comedic and empowering effect.
Nick Robinson is a fantastic romantic hero, and he did such a wonderful job making me feel what Simon felt. My heart broke and soared for him accordingly. Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr did beautiful work populating Simon’s life with the intricate drama and shifting connections of teenage friendships. For me, Langford was a real standout, as Simon’s self-conscious childhood friend, articulating very clearly what it’s like to feel alone and guarded while surrounded with carefree people.
Blue is cleverly voiced and depicted by different characters throughout the film, according to who Simon’s top suspect is at the time, but this does nothing to lessen the romance. If anything, it strongly captured what it’s like to know and love someone based on how they write, and how the written word can still cause butterflies in the age of online communication.
Of particular note is the fantastic montage in which Simon imagines what it would be like if his friends had to come out to their parents as straight. The series of quick-fire scenes seek to remind us that just because something has been normalised, it doesn’t mean it should be considered normal. The parents’ reactions seem ridiculous in this context, but they are exactly what our culture represents and what we expect when a fictional character comes out. The way this film makes us question representations of sexuality in the media is welcome and long overdue.
I will take a moment to criticise the use of anonymous emails as a plot device, when the film doesn’t take a beat to question or explore the dangers of online communication. I grew up in the era of warnings about chatroom predators, and I’ve seen at least one episode of Catfish, so it made me uncomfortable that Simon never took a moment to consider that anonymous Blue might be anything other than what he said he was.
A quick nod to Jennifer Garner for making me cry during a speech to Simon, providing a beautiful message of acceptance, love and affirmation that is making me tear up again as I write this. Josh Duhamel also brings it as a father who realises that he’s taken for granted who he expected his son to be, and in doing so, has only made it harder for Simon to be honest with him. The representation of parenting and of family in the film is wonderful, as they humanly falter but ultimately succeed in supporting and loving Simon.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I was so behind Simon the whole way, and I can easily see this film joining 10 Things I Hate About You and Easy A as a high school rom-com that I re-watch again and again. It’s been a while since I’ve felt quite so warm and happy that a film exists, but that’s exactly how I felt leaving the cinema after Love, Simon, because yeah, everyone does deserve a great love story.