It is pretty disappointing both that Love, Simon is the first studio romcom with a gay protagonist and also that this is considered a milestone. Thankfully, the movie succeeds at being just as sentimental as you want it to be, in addition to being financially successful.
Our story here follows a closeted homosexual high school student, named Simon who, as he says himself, has a perfect life. He’s got plenty of good friends, two loving parents played by Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner, a great relationship with his sister and with the school’s vice principal (Tony Hale), but there’s something keeping him back. Nobody knows he’s gay. Things get all the more complicated when he starts emailing a fellow closeted classmate whose identity remains a mystery for most of the film. This aspect of the movie is a very effective plot device but is unfortunately bogged down when a blackmail aspect is thrown in, only to muddle it all up with some very sitcom-y story points. And yes, while this movie doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel with the way it tells its story, it still managed to surprise me. This movie, while still being pretty broad by nature, tackles a lot more than I expected it to. It doesn’t ignore certain aspects of the narrative that you’d expect it to, nor does it water them down. Consistently throughout the movie, I found myself impressed by how much I was enjoying it. This movie has a lot of heart and you just can’t help yourself but be enchanted by it.
Love, Simon’s greatest strength is its cast. There isn’t a weak link in the bunch and I typically loathe seeing Jennifer Garner onscreen, so don’t take that lightly. Each of the friends works perfectly, but I find the most promise in Alexandra Shipp as Abby and Katherine Langford of 13 Reasons Why fame as the childhood best friend. These two bring some real magic to the cast, highlighting them as talents to look for in the years to come. Even Tony Hale dances on the edge of being too campy for the script but every time he gets close he reels it back in. For a majority of the movie, I was feeling underwhelmed with Nick Robinson’s performance as Simon. I thought he was just being too standard as our protagonist, but as the film ran on, I began to see the nuance in what he was delivering. Simon is conflicted in more ways than just his sexuality. He is, as a person, very closed off, unadventurous, and, comparably, ordinary. And yet, all he’s ever seen of homosexuals are people who are open, outgoing, and eccentric. His performance reflects this dichotomy really well and is not one to be slept on.
At the end of the day, there’s not much to say about Love, Simon, and that’s kind of a good thing. In a world where every young adult romance has to have one party either be supernatural in some way or suffering some bizarre disease (look at this year’s Every Day and Midnight Sun for reference) it’s incredibly refreshing to see a movie that is, in most senses of the word, normal. And while I’d always love more Call Me By Your Names, I’m beginning to think we need more Love, Simons, as well. It’s fairly traditional in its storytelling and doesn’t take any grand strides in the rom com genre, it remains, above all else, just cute. And while the LGBT community has gotten plenty of sober, melancholic films over the years, the time has come for them to get their own movie that is just cute. If any of you are out there wondering if you can see this film even if you aren’t gay, you should reevaluate yourself. To be unable to see Love, Simon, if you are straight, is the same as being unable to see Black Panther if you are white. It’s absurd. In other words, if you find yourself needing to make excuses as to why you shouldn’t see this film, that’s more of a fault of you than one of Love, Simon. But hey, to each his own.
All images are from Love, Simon, a film by 20th Century Fox