The coming-of-age teen movie is a staple of Hollywood and has become even more popular recently thanks to John Green’s romantic young adult novels being adapted, and they’ve been given an LGBT twist thanks to Love, Simon.
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is a typical teenager who’s about to graduate high school. He comes from an all-American household, has three best friends and is generally liked at school. Simon also has a big secret: he’s gay. When a student using the pseudonym “Blue” posts a blog about his sexuality, Simon starts to communicate with him, falls for him and speculates who Blue is. When another student, Martin (Logan Miller) finds out about their communications, he threatens to out Simon if he doesn’t help Martin get with the new hot girl Abby (Alexandra Shipp).
Love, Simon is a well-intended film and has earned a lot of praise because of it. Fans of John Green adaptations and other YA films will undoubtedly enjoy it as the film hits the right beats. Love, Simon is a grounded story and its depiction of a teenager coming out felt realistic. Simon is a relatively average teenager, and he doesn’t live up to the gay stereotypes – he dresses in hoodies and is a music aficionado.
The characters around Simon are also mostly relatable. His friends are normal teens; one is like him, a music nut, another is soccer player, and Abby is a theater geek. The dialogue and banter between Simon and his family is believable: Simon’s mom (Jennifer Garner) offers wisecracks and banter, and his dad (Josh Duhamel) is a handsome all American type who makes embarrassing dad jokes about his son looking at porn – unaware of his son’s sexual preference. Characters are not quirky for the sake of being quirky like in other YA films nor overly pretention people that you would want to throw out of a window.
Simon has the same problems as anyone else his age – he wants to do well at school, is looking forward to going to college, and going to parties. He is not befriending someone battling an illness or looking for a missing student. His story is also like many gay people – he knew early on about his sexuality, but he still had some girlfriends before attempting to get with another man. Like anyone, Simon fantasies who his penpal is and what their relationship could be like.
Compared to other high school films which make the students hang out in cliques like the jocks, the nerds, the popular girls, the arty types, etc… Love, Simons portrays the students for what they would really be like – mixed. Even Simon’s core group of friends is mixed. It is refreshing to see this kind of portrayal in a Hollywood film.
The humor in the film is of a more gentle type: they are some witty lines and interactions and Love Story does this by mixing it in with drama. The drama teacher (Natasha Rothwell) has some of the funniest lines and reactions. This mixture was shown through Ethan (Clark Moore), the only openly gay kid at school – he is on the receiving end of some horrific homophobic abuse, but he gives it right back with his sassy comebacks. A scene I particularly liked was when Ethan asked Simon why he didn’t come out to him and Simon gives an honest answer – that the two didn’t have much in common.
When Simon is outed many people say they are supportive and some people want to show they are tolerate. But even some characters show a subconscious prejudice or assumptions – like when one character thinks Simon and Ethan are together just because they’re gay.
The character of Martin was a grinding presence and acts like a sex offender ready to happen. He is utterly despicable, and Logan Miller made it too easy to hate him. When he embarrassed himself and others, I ended up watching through my fingers because it was so cringeworthy.
Love, Simon was directed by Greg Berlanti, best known for working on the Arrowverse and films like Green Lantern. Berlanti does offer some moments of flash – like a song-and-dance – and when the crack in Simon room changes, but otherwise it doesn’t look much different from other films in the subgenre: high school comedy-dramas set in middle-class suburban America.
Love, Simon is an excellent step for LGBT representation in mainstream film: a coming-of-age romance where the main character just happens to be gay.