Love, Simon is the very first mainstream gay teen romance and it is about damn time. Director Greg Berlanti and screenwriters Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker give us a charming teen romance with a gay character front and center. Hopefully Love, Simon will bring forth a new era of films about the LGBTQ+ community that is not defined by struggle and pain, but rather love and hope. Like the tagline for this film says: Everyone deserves a great love story.
Love, Simon follows Simon Spier. He is just your average teenaged boy from an affluent family in the suburbs. He has great friends, a family he adores and adore him in return, is moderately popular in school, and is gay. The great thing about this film is that Simon is not confused or struggling to understand his sexuality; He knows he is gay and he accepts it. He is very ordinary, which makes this film extraordinary. In 2018 we are finally getting a classic formulaic teen romance about a gay character. The fact that we have had to wait this long for it is just awful.
The main plot of the movie is that Simon lives his life with this secret, until one day when an anonymous student confesses on an a high school gossip site that he is closeted. This is the catalyst for the events of this film. Simon finally has someone to talk to, although there always was someone, but we will get to that later. Simon’s grasp on his secret is loosened as this revelation shakes him. Although the film follows Simon keeping the secret and the secret falling into the wrong hands, it is still an idealized version of a coming out story. As most teen romances are essentially teen fantasies, Love, Simon is no exception. Simon’s problems are quite minimal compared to his cinematic counterparts like Elio from Call Me By Your Name or Chiron from Moonlight. Unlike Elio, Simon lives in a more tolerant era. Unlike Chiron, he doesn’t have societal pressures and expectations. Is Simon having a hard time? Yes, of course. There is still legitimate reasons for gay teens to feel scared, but Simon’s life offers plenty of reasons why he shouldn’t really feel that way.
Simon does not face any large obstacles. He has a family that is established as your idealized nuclear family. His mother and father are very loving and raise their children in a safe, caring home. They are not ignorant or bigoted – although, his father (Josh Duhmael) makes some derogatory comments, but even that comes across as harmless. It gives Simon pause with his coming out, but not once are we made to feel that Simon will be hurt by coming out. Even his friends, played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Alexandra Shipp, and Katherine Langford, are great human beings. They are a delightful group of teens. Nothing about them suggests they in any way will react poorly to Simon’s coming out. In fact, when he does come out to one of them, they barely react.
Simon believes that he has no one to really talk to about being gay, but Ethan (Clarke Moore) an openly gay kid at his school is right there. Simon explains that he never went to Ethan because he didn’t relate to him. For those of you haven’t seen the film, Ethan is easily identifiable as gay and there is even a joke made about this. He is feminine, sassy, and unapologetically gay. On the other hand, Simon is not that kind of gay. He blends in. This is what makes this film great. It shows us that gay people don’t always align with our assumptions and stereotypes. Even Simon makes the assumption that he and Ethan are nothing alike because he doesn’t sound, dress, or act like him. Gay people are not all the same.
Simon’s coming out is jeopardized by a contrived plot and in true teen romance fashion, everything wraps up with a lovely bow at the end. I am sure there are some horrible people who will use someone’s sexuality against them, but it is how this character is drawn that makes it rather laughable. However, with this conflict in Simon’s life, Nick Robinson is given the chance to really wow audiences with his acting. He is able to give a character that is quite frankly boring in depth and life. As Simon is forced to start reacting, Robinson is able to give him layers of emotion that were not present before.
In conclusion, this film is great. Robinson is a wonderful leading man and his supporting cast are delightful and adorable. The story is a well-balanced teen romance and is very well executed from the writing, directing, and acting. Love, Simon lays the ground work for more teen films about the LGBTQ+ community that are positive, hopeful, and ordinary. This film successfully does what it sets out to do: Be a great love story.