GENEVIEVE/CC BY 2.0
The film’s director Greg Berlanti is known for his work on Dawson’s Creek.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous going into Love, Simon. I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of the rom-com genre, but my sense of cautious optimism was further amplified by my worry that the protagonist’s coming out story would be oversimplified or even reduced to the extent that the story might as well have not even been about queer-identifying characters.
However, even if it does occasionally fall into feel-good sentiment and trope, Love, Simon also contains genuine sentiment and emotional resonance.
Even better, it provides a look into the queer experience that feels incredibly modern and relatable to anybody from our generation. Regardless of your sexual orientation, it is difficult not to get invested in Simon’s story; the audience can’t help but root for him.
The film focuses on the titular Simon (Nick Robinson), a gay high school student who hasn’t come out to either his parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) or his friends (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr.).
After one of his fellow classmates anonymously posts about being queer on social media, Simon begins exchanging emails with the mysterious “Blue,” and the two bond over their shared experiences and struggles.
As Simon develops feelings for Blue, he attempts to figure out which of his fellow classmates is his mysterious pen pal, while also struggling to keep his own orientation a secret from his friends and family.
Overall, the plot of the film is pretty decent. Although it does do away with a decent number of romantic comedy clichés, it isn’t packed full of surprises; a lot of the plot points are pretty clearly telegraphed. Personally, the only detail that I didn’t have figured out after the first 15 minutes was Blue’s identity.
That doesn’t mean that the story wasn’t interesting or well-written. Although the stakes are pretty low for much of the film, the search for Blue provides the narrative with a strong continuing sense of momentum.
Frequent cutaways to the emails between the two characters — each one narrated by whomever Simon suspects to be Blue at the time — help develop the relationship between the two in an interesting, dynamic way. If anything, I would’ve liked more of such scenes to be featured.
At the same time, Love, Simon avoids a lot of the stereotypical dramatic moments of the typical coming out narrative.
Simon’s family is portrayed as incredibly supportive throughout the film (Garner and Duhamel shine in both their comedic and dramatic moments), and the audience never feels that Simon is in any sort of danger because of his sexuality.
Instead, it focuses on the smaller, more personal aspects of being in the closet, both good and bad. The wince on Simon’s face after his dad makes a lightly homophobic joke will likely be incredibly relatable to any queer viewers, as will the moment when he pictures how amazing his life will be once he’s away at college and can be openly gay.
Love, Simon doesn’t shy away from any aspects of the LGBTQ experience, devoting enough time to both light-hearted and more challenging moments, so as to ensure that Simon’s reactions, whether they be fear or relief-based, never feel unearned.
It’s also a pretty funny movie! And even better, almost all of the jokes are about the gay experience, as opposed to about being gay.
At one point Simon says that he knew he was gay when he started liking Panic! At the Disco, and I couldn’t help but laugh at how well that mirrored my own experience.
A few of the jokes might strike a little closer to the line of good taste — in one scene, a group of girls pretend to be surprised when their male friend comes out to them — but overall, it is all in good fun.
Ultimately, Love, Simon is a fun, heartwarming film that also serves as an excellent representation of the coming out experience.
I won’t say that the film’s appeal or message are universal; it is a story that is primarily about the experiences of a white, middle-class, cis man. Nor is it particularly ground-breaking.
Still, it never aspires to grandeur; rather, it is content with being a simple and sweet film about the struggles of adolescence, and I doubt that any viewer will regret having seen it.