Love, Simon opens with a sequence that establishes the normality of our protagonist’s daily life – he has breakfast with his family, hangs out with friends, goes to college. This sets up the pervasive ordinariness that is Simon’s life. The only thing that would seem to separate him from the heteronormative, nuclear family life is the fact that he is gay.
The film’s plot follows Simon as he, under a pseudonym, messages another closeted gay kid at his college and searches to find someone who is a little bit like him. Love, Simon goes through the typical motions of any of the romantic comedies you’ve seen from Love Actually to The Notebook with the development of a crush, inevitable heartbreak, friendship problems and drama. This is not necessarily a bad thing and Love, Simon never comes across as a cliché.
Directed by Greg Berlanti, of Riverdale fame, this film follows the current trend of teen movies and TV shows dealing with issues that are often glosses over such as Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why.
However, this film deals with its subject matter in a far less heavy-handed way than those two shows and it finds plenty of time for humour (the whole screening was cracking up the whole time which made for a lovely viewing experience). It’s brilliantly cast with Nick Robinson, who I’ve had a crush on since he was the lead in Jurassic World, conveying what it is like to be in the closet very effectively, though he is helped by a terrific script. In supporting roles are Katherine Langford (Hannah Baker from Thirteen Reasons Why), Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel. A particular standout is Natasha Rothwell as Simon’s drama teacher whose brilliant dressing-down of two homophobic students makes the entire movie.
Love, Simon is ground-breaking purely on the grounds that the rom-com roles and sexualities of protagonist and best friend have been swapped – the straight best friend is film’s latest trope. But Love, Simon is never just a film for the LGBT+ community, it is a film for everyone as its message is that everyone in some way has their own coming out story as all of the film’s main teen leads have various things they hide from divorced parents to crushes. While it is never on the scale of what coming out is like to most LGBT+ people, straight people in some ways still need to reveal themselves to the world.
Love, Simon succeeds by being perfectly ordinary and for the first gay rom-com produced by a major film studio that also happens to feature a black love interest; that’s pretty special.
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