Directed by: Greg Berlanti
Starring: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Keiynan Lonsdale
Written by Fiona Underhill
2017 was a banner year for LGBQT cinema, with prestige pictures such as ‘Call Me By Your Name’, ‘God’s Own Country’, ‘Beach Rats’, ‘A Fantastic Woman’, ‘BPM’, ‘Princess Cyd’ and ‘Professor Marston & the Wonder Women’ all doing extremely well critically and at various awards shows (and I personally highly recommend that you seek them all out). However, these were pretty much all arthouse indie fare that didn’t make that much of an impact on the mainstream audience. Hopefully, ‘Love, Simon’ is here to change that in 2018 – with a big studio (20th Century Fox) and a wide release, designed to appeal to young adults. ‘Love, Simon’ appears to be a typical coming-of-age, high school romantic comedy – which had a golden age in the late 1990s/early 2000s with ‘10 Things I Hate About You’, ‘She’s All That’ and ‘Get Over It’ among others. The twist here is that boy doesn’t love girl, boy loves boy.
One of the refreshing things about ‘Love, Simon’ is that it tackles modern day teens in a realistic way, acknowledging how much their lives are fueled by social media and iced coffee. Simon (Nick Robinson) lives with his parents Emily (Jennifer Garner) and Jack (an unfairly well-aged Josh Duhamel) and younger sister Nora (Talitha Bateman) in ridiculously affluent and well-adjusted circumstances. Nora is obsessed with cooking and tries out all her recipes on her family and they have a weekly ‘family TV night.’ Simon is also pretty happy at school, with his friends; Nick (Jorge Lendeborg), Abby (Alexandra Shipp) and Leah (Katherine Langford). Simon has a small role in the high school musical; ‘Cabaret’ led by Ms Albright (the absolutely hilarious Natasha Rothwell). The only person Simon has to avoid in the corridors is the overly familiar vice-principal Mr Worth (Tony Hale). One day, the school is rocked by a post on a tumblr for high school gossip; ‘creeksecrets’ – an anonymous user saying that they are secretly gay. Simon makes the decision to contact this person, known as ‘Blue’ using an alias of his own; Jacques. The rest of the film centres around Simon’s growing attachment to Blue and his quest to find out who he is.
Nick Robinson is a likeable screen presence and after ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Everything Everything’, he is on a successful run at the moment. Katherine Langford is quite a big draw for this film’s target audience after appearing in Netflix’s ‘13 Reasons Why,’ however I feel she was slightly miscast here. Logan Miller plays Martin, who discovers Simon’s secret and starts blackmailing him. Clark Moore plays Ethan – the only openly gay kid at school and it is refreshing that several very different LGBQT people are represented.
The film hits many of the typical senior year of High School milestones – getting drunk at a Halloween party, sleepovers, the big homecoming football game and the musical. There is one delightful fantasy musical sequence (set to the best possible song; ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’), where Simon imagines going to a liberal university and being able to be ‘loud and proud’ in his homosexuality. This was a highlight of the film for me and I wish that this had been more of a feature. Another successful element is that the film turns into a mystery – with Simon on a quest to uncover Blue’s true identity. As he speculates as to who it could be, the voiceover reading Blue’s emails changes to fit who he is imagining and he pictures scenarios involving each potential candidate.
The film builds to an exciting climax, after Simon gradually comes out to those closest to him and then is eventually outed publicly. The big reveal of Blue’s identity is effectively tense and has the appropriate level of cheese for a rom-com, which will melt a stony heart and leave you smiling warmly long afterwards. Yes – on the one hand this is a blandly suburban middle-class mainstream film, but on the other, it has made an effort to have a diverse cast and of course, crucially, it is a major studio release tackling a young gay love story. It’s really enjoyable and absolutely worth you leaving the house and lending your support to. You won’t regret checking out ‘Love, Simon’ this weekend!
Fiona’s Rating: 8.5/10