Written by Aaron Radcliff:
If you look at the pantheon of queer cinema, there’s a distinct lack of films geared toward teens and young adults. While the coming-of-age story has been told many times, and at points has focused on LGBT characters- including youth- it’s almost always been presented to adults. Blue is the Warmest Colour and Moonlight may be incredible films, but I wouldn’t say they’re easily relatable enough for teens trying to discover and understand themselves and navigate through newfound challenges. Assuming you’re not someone who strongly connects to gritty emotional dramas.
Enter Love, Simon.
Based on the book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon tells the story of high school senior Simon Siper. After a person named “Blue” reveals themselves to be gay on social media, Simon begins correspondence and a blossoming romance through email with the one person he feels he can finally be open with. But when a student discovers Simon’s secret and threatens to out him, Simon must balance appeasing the blackmailer, maintaining his identity, and walking the tightrope of being a teenager all while trying to find out Blue’s true identity.
When I mentioned that this was geared toward teens and youth, it truly is a film for them. Where some my misconstrue that with it being childish, it’s exactly the opposite. Sure, it has its goofy moments, but it’s evident throughout that this is meant for those young people who have (or haven’t yet) gone through the huge event of coming out. Even in Simon’s relatively idealistic world, it’s still a big deal. You don’t truly know how people will react and that anxiety is always present through the first half of the film.
Some might find the overly-idealistic aspect of the first half to be too much. I did too, at first. But it’s once the second half starts and we get the inevitable outting that everything seemingly begins to crumble for our lead. It shows that, no matter how perfect things may be, it may not always work out how you wanted it to. But you never get the sense that it’s all over and nothing will ever get better. There’s always this air of comfort hanging in the background; the knowledge that no matter how bad it gets, things will ultimately work out.
I’d be lying if I said that reverting back into an idealistic world with a sappy ending wasn’t a bit…forced, but I feel like it was earned. This is ultimately a love story and love stories are supposed to have happy endings (don’t even think about referencing Titanic or A Walk to Remember).
As for an overall movie, it’s very well done. There’s plenty of intrigue in trying to find out who Blue is and, for a romantic dramedy, it has some incredibly funny moments. From clever one-lines to the laugh-out-loud hilarious Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell), there are plenty of moments that will land for adults and for the targeted youth audience.
Once the emotional hit comes in with Simon struggling with his life post-outing, it really does hit hard. You can feel the depression and isolation Simon goes through and you just want so badly to make everything better for him. Major props to Nick Robinson for his performance. While it was good overall, he really shines in the quieter, contemplative scenes where the only thing you have to go off of are his facial expressions. Those tend to hit harder than any dialogue.
What really struck me, and what sealed this film for me, were the reactions. I sat surrounded by so many young people and I’ve never seen such widespread reaction and happy crying than I did seeing this.
As a straight white man, I know there are struggles and moments that I’ll never experience or even begin to understand. But seeing the honest reactions of people who have lived through what is possibly the hardest moment of their lives was not only touching, but it showed why something like Love, Simon was needed. Not everyone gets their happy ending. Not everyone gets their ideal world. Not everyone has a Blue. But to have that representation can mean the world. Seeing so many people relive or come to terms with their experiences, be it good or bad, just added to the emotional punch to this experience.
I would argue that Love, Simon is a film that LGBT youth need. They need their stories told, too. They need the representation OF them FOR them on the big screen and maybe this charming, funny, tear-jerking, and heart-warming film can be the beginning.
Score: 8 out of 10
Image via 20th Century Fox