By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Love, Simon is an amusing teen romcom that wins because of its gay protagonist, even if it is sickly sweet and sentimental at times.
Loosely based on the novel by Becky Albertalli and directed by Greg Berlanti, Love, Simon sees highschooler Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) coming to terms with being gay, after a classmate threatens to out him by exposing secret emails to his mysterious pen-pal ‘Blue’. The film also stars 13 Reason’s Why’s Katherine Langford, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel.
So, it’s rare that I would give anything this wholesome and cheesy the time of day, but the fact that Love, Simon is the first mainstream teen movie to feature a central gay character, not to mention being supported by contemporary queer director Xavier Dolan, I was naturally a little curious.
The film deals with the subject well. I liked the fact that Simon is a reasonably normal dude from a normal family. This film isn’t trying to be a hard hitting gay drama about the pain of coming out, and that’s a breath of fresh air. As the poster says ‘everyone deserves a love story’, and that’s what this is, even if it is so sweet that it’s diabetic. I mean, that ferris wheel? Really? I guess I’m just not really a romance fan.
Anyway, the film is clearly engineered for a teen audience, and that’s where it succeeds the most. Simon is going to be a relatable character for young LGBT teens. Nick Robinson, who you might remember from Jurassic World or Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ The Kings of Summer, is comfortable in the role and despite being a good-looking guy, is by no means a model, nor is he the popular jock or awkward nerd that’s usually in the limelight.
On top of that, there are not one but TWO faces here from the incredibly successful (and dark) teen series 13 Reason’s Why (what a disappointing Season 2 by the way). Katherine Langford brings a slightly more light-hearted role to the party here as Simon’s best friend Leah, but still not that different from the tortured Hannah Baker. And Miles Heizer is basically the same as the ‘could be’ gay character here too. Let’s hope these kids can escape their teen typecasts in the near future.
There are a number of characters who you expect Simon’s secret ‘Blue’ to be, and every one of them seems equally plausible. Director Berlanti keeps you guessing throughout while hitting the nail on the head with how ambiguous LGBT sexuality really is. Most of the Blue candidates could be gay, and most of them are from different cultural backgrounds.
The film is also surprisingly funny and self-aware. It cleverly addresses typical gay tropes and turns them on their head with genuine wit. Duhamel and Garner have a certain kind of charm as Simon’s picture perfect Starbucks parents, and Natasha Rothwell (Saturday Night Live) is hilarious as washed-up actor / drama teacher Ms Albright.
Blackmailing geek Martin (Logan Miller) will be funny to some, but was pretty loathsome to me. A bit too much. Remember that infuriating know-it-all loser from school? That’s him.
Love, Simon is a great entry into the teen genre, and may well follow in the footsteps of cult classics before it. Will it be the next Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller? Maybe not, but it’ll come close.