By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is a smart teenager, dealing with the usual problems of adolescence–identity, the future, and school. He has one major dilemma, however, a big dark secret he has kept from everyone, including his closest friends and family. Simon is gay and he just doesn’t know how to share this with those who care most about him. While Simon continues to struggle with this crisis, he becomes email pals with another closeted teen who wishes to remain anonymous, and the two share a common bond and palpable attraction. The two confide in each other often, but Simon wants much more. Things get more complicated when a classmate named Martin (Logan Miller) discovers the emails and tries to blackmail Simon to get something he wants–a date with Simon’s friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp).
Growing up during the 80s and 90s, I have seen plenty of teen romance movies–especially during John Hughes’s hey day. There have been plenty of films which deal with adolescent love between young men and women, but there have been no mainstream movies which tackle the subject of gay adolescence and love. Based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is a funny, charming comedy with plenty of heart. With a screenplay by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, director Greg Berlanti does a fantastic job telling this remarkable story with plenty of delightful humor, poignancy and love. Though certain themes are familiar, this particular movie is different because it treats the Simon character properly, just like a regular teenager dealing with genuine problems that some gay teens often face in discovering their identity.
It also helps that actor Nick Robinson is a bona fide talent who can bring natural sincerity and emotions to his roles. He also has a great screen presence and charisma that is undeniable. Robinson knows how to juggle humor and pathos well without ever laying it on too thick. He also has a gifted supporting cast who performs well in their respective roles. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel offer performances that are both funny and emotional as Simon’s loving parents. Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) delivers a wonderful turn as Simon’s best friend Leah. Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg, Jr. are both great as Simon’s friends Abby and Nick. Logan Miller appropriately gives a grating performance as the over-dramatic, but sometimes funny Martin. Tony Hale often steals the show as the awkwardly hilarious principal Mr. Worth.
So if looking for a modern teen romance comedy which realistically deals with the problems of gay adolescence and does so with sweetness and wit, Love, Simon is a film not to miss. As long as teen romantic comedies have been around, it is about time that an underrepresented group of teens gets their moment to shine in a more mainstream movie that delivers crowd-pleasing entertainment and does so with being artificial about it. That’s what makes this movie a breakthrough and cinema and it is what makes it deserving of acclaim and success.