The feel good movie of the year and probably one of the most important ones too, Love, Simon is a unique and touching look at one teen's struggle over his identity.
Over the last few years, diversity in cinema has become an important issue for many. In front of the camera, the actual content we experience in the film itself, progress is slowly being made, with films like Get Out and Lady Bird being among 2017’s most popular and acclaimed products. With regard to LGBT cinema within this issue, we are rapidly seeing a wider reaching appreciation and acceptance of such films; gone are the days where Brokeback Mountain is dismissed as the “gay cowboy movie”, now we have films like Call Me By Your Name capturing the hearts of many and Moonlight winning Best Picture. Now, we can add Love, Simon into the mix, a notable achievement as it is the first film released by a major studio to focus on a gay teenage romance. And, thankfully, it lives up to the occasion, serving up a witty, heartfelt and uplifting coming of age-romance movie.
The film tells the story of the titular Simon (Nick Robinson), who lives a seemingly ordinary and rather perfect life, supported by loving parents (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner) and best friends Leah (Katherine Langford), Abbey (Alexander Shipp) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). But underneath the idyllic skin, Simon has a huge secret he’s never told anyone; he’s gay and, what’s worse, he’s falling for an anonymous closeted classmate. As Simon grows closer to his pen-pal and lover, who goes by the pseudonym “Blue”, he must face the truth and come to terms with who he is.
Whilst you’re most likely to recognise Nick Robinson from his rather dull and uninspired character in 2015’s Jurassic World, the young actor continues to shed his Jurassic skin here. As with last year’s surprisingly sweet Everything, Everything, he gives a charming and instantly likable performance as Simon. Whilst the earlier parts of the film don’t challenge him much, Robinson shines as the film begins to sink its claws in deeper, evoking a much more emotionally resonant performance from him as the material begins to harden. Robinson’s performance is undoubtedly bolstered by the strong chemistry he exhibits with virtually everyone around him. Katherine Langford of 13 Reasons Why fame shines as best friend Leah, matching Robinson’s charm and emotional complexities, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. is a little more hard done by on the emotional side, but still competently holds his own. It is Alexander Shipp, however, who gives arguably the strongest performance of the bunch, working in perfect balance to her character’s growing significance and the deepening of her subplot as the film progresses.
Elsewhere Garner and Duhamel as Simon’s parents give strong performances, the former continuing her string of delightful supporting roles, there’s something Joan Cusack-esque about Garner here, particularly when she has a moment later on which damn near puts Michael Stuhlbarg’s famous monologue from Call Me By Your Name to shame. Duhamel is perhaps the most surprising talent however, often restricted in his roles to vanilla action or romcom characters, he unearths a resonant emotional core to himself here which proves to be hugely moving. To lighten things up, veteran comedic character actor Tony Hale is along for the ride also as Simon’s Vice Principal, breezing in and out of scenes, bringing the absurd comedy that only Hale can in the process.
Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger’s script doesn’t rely on huge laugh out loud moments to entertain, instead it keeps the humour moderate, popping every so often, whilst accurately creating a believable world and story of characters who feel very real and earnest. Whilst some moments are rather on the nose, such as the mocking of one openly gay teen in Simon’s school at the hands of a couple of jocks, and other parts are a little clunky, it’s a largely zippy and enjoyable script, making for an overall film that, in the more than capable hands of director Greg Berlanti, feels the same way.
Berlanti handles the film with great sensitivity and an understated edge, there’s no overblown or obvious highlighting or celebration of the progressiveness of the film, nor is there any heavy handed message being pushed. Love, Simon is subtle and deeply moving, capturing the high school world of present day and mixing it with the emotional punch of a John Hughes film, it calmly conveys Simon’s story and his struggle and will undoubtedly be a very important film to a number of people. Love is love, and in Love, Simon, everyone deserves a great love story. It’s just as well, then, that the film provides this in what is a heartwarming, trailblazing, crowd-pleasing and damn important movie.
Love, Simon (2018), directed by Greg Berlanti, will be released in UK cinemas on April 6th and is distributed by 20th Century Fox, certificate 12a.