20th CENTURY FOX (2018)
Director: Greg Berlanti
Starring: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Keiynan Lonsdale, Logan Miller, Talitha Bateman
“I’m just like you.”
Love, Simon opens with a statement. Whatever the subject matter of the movie, the protagonist is just like the audience watching the movie. The first major (Hollywood) coming-of-age movie focusing solely on a gay character sets its stall out immediately. Simon (Robinson) is a seventeen-year-old high-school student with a secret – he’s gay. His affable parents are unaware, his close-knit buddies have no idea. The only person who knows is an anonymous emailer known as Blue. When school oddbod Martin (Miller) finds out via an un-logged out Gmail account, Simon’s secret threatens to be exposed to the entire school.
After recent offering such as Lady Bird, God’s Own Country, Call Me by Your Name and the (superb) The Edge of Seventeen, Love, Simon could easily have just been another coming-of-age movie and, at times, it is. There’s plenty to find here that you can check off from the young adult tick list – the teen harbouring their issues, likeable parents, the chic friends, the comfortable lifestyle, the cool looking high school – it’s all here. But underneath it all is a charming and tender love story – whatever the orientation of the characters, this would still be a pleasing story. Let’s face it, this movie couldn’t have been released one/two decades ago, so it’s great that a young romantic story with a gay lead character can be released with fanfare. In these times we live in, it’s just awesome to see a movie like this where everyone comes together in celebration and for a while, the world doesn’t seem like such a bad place. Simon is just like the rest of us.
Whilst the love aspect is great, it does take on that extra edge (and importance) that the attraction is between young men at a time in their lives where most things start to shift anyway. It’s very clean here, there’s nothing gratuitous or raunchy, but there doesn’t need to be. Love, Simon succeeds simply by being an affecting character-based story. No need for controversy to sell this flick. It’s sharply-written, clever enough to be self-aware and wisely ensures no one is left behind as the movie thunders along. This isn’t just a story about a young man struggling with his sexuality, it also delves into the intrigue of who is Blue, and Greg Berlanti takes us on a twisty, windy road to the eventual resolution. I still find it odd to see modern foibles such as FaceTime, drive-thru coffee shops (at least from an English perspective), Grindr and Facebook/social media (to name a few) being dropped into YA movies, but I mention that in passing and not negatively.
Handsome Nick Robinson leads the movie excellently, bringing vulnerability, confidence and humour in equal measures. There’s a real air of authenticity about his performance. The strong supporting cast of Langford, Miller, Shipp, Duhamel and Garner all deliver great efforts in varying areas and really round the movie off well. The relationship between Simon and his parents is especially good, providing plenty of poignant moments, excellent monologues and a fine dose of levity too.
The soundtrack is pretty darn fine too, so get your top-tappin’ shoes at the ready.
The story is pretty much as predictable as can be, and whilst the characters (Simon aside) are all very good, there’s a pigeonhole waiting for each of them to return too. It’s a minor quibble in an otherwise extremely enjoyable movie. Love, Simon is an important movie in its acceptance and depiction of gay teens as leading characters and also, by not pitying or accentuating Simon, it doesn’t fall into any generic or cliché portrayals. All things considered, Love, Simon is a joy to watch and will have you beaming by the conclusion.
April 7th 2018