In many respects, Love, Simon is a familiar genre movie: an entertaining high-school teen rom-com packed with likeable characters negotiating their way in love and life. But what sets this gently humoured drama apart is that its protagonist, 17-year-old Simon (Nick Robinson), is a closeted gay boy.
“For the most part, I’m just like you,” says Simon in his opening voice-over. He is an affable, dependable teen who leads a normal life, surrounded by a close-knit group of friends and loving, supportive parents. He even admits to liking his younger sister but Simon has a “huge-ass secret” — that he is gay. His reluctance at coming out is not because he fears being rejected by his friends and family but because he is concerned that it might change everything, that people will view him differently. And so, despite the pressure of keeping his sexuality under wraps, Simon opts to maintain a straight façade.
Directed by Greg Berlanti with a script written by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker — the pair behind the TV series, This is Us — Love, Simon is based on a Young Adult debut novel, by Jewish author Becky Albertalli.
The film marks a significant shift in LGBTQ cinema in that it is the first Hollywood studio-made movie, aimed at a mainstream audience with a young, lead character whose gay identity is front and centre of the narrative.
When Simon discovers through a school gossip blog that an anonymous fellow pupil who goes by the pseudonym Blue is also gay, he decides to email him using an alias. An online, supportive relationship quickly develops between the two and Simon begins to fall in love with his secret e-pal, speculating who he might be. But matters become complicated when Simon finds himself blackmailed by duffer student, Martin (Logan Miller).
Robinson is an utterly credible, engaging lead surrounded by a strong supporting cast including Alexandra Shipp and Katherine Langford as friends Abby and Leah. There is an obligatory party and plenty of declarations of unrequited love but the teen experience, with its insecurities and desire for acceptance and love is well observed and explored with a non-saccharine sensitivity.
The build-up to the big reveal of Simon’s crush is as exhilarating as the fairground ride where he sits and waits. Love, Simon is a light, coming-out, coming-of-age movie but with a big heart.