Movie Review: ‘Love, Simon’ an Affectionate Coming Out Tale
A closeted gay teenager struggles with the decision to come out - and the repercussions it would mean for his high school life - in Love, Simon, an affectionate but not overly-sentimental crowdpleaser that represents the kind of movie John Hughes once made updated with modern social issues.
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is just an average high-schooler, he tells us via opening narration, with one key difference: he’s gay, something that his parents (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner), friends, and high school community have no idea about.
It’s a secret that eats away at Simon, who yearns for someone to talk to about it but fears the potential repercussions. When he sees an anonymous message from a classmate in the same situation on the school message board, he’s excited to be able to reach out - - if only under a pseudonym.
But when drama student Martin (Logan Miller) discovers Simon’s secret correspondence, it sends a ripple through his small circle of friends. Martin wants to hook up with Abby (Alexandra Shipp), who has a thing for Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). But Simon keeps them apart to make Martin happy, while trying to fix up Nick with Leah (Katherine Langford), who is, in turn, in love with Simon.
Ah, if only there were some way to get out of this mess. There is of course, and Love, Simon is like one of those movies where if the characters just talked openly with each other the plot would resolve itself. Here, however, Simon is terrified of the consequences that could bring, and chooses to lie to his friends rather than risk coming out to them.
Amidst the high school drama with his friends, Simon continues a progressively intimate relationship with his anonymous correspondent. And he tries to decipher just who, among his classmates, it could really be.
Love, Simon brings a unique spin to a somewhat familiar realm of middle-class teenage suburbia, and draws strengths from what may otherwise have been weaknesses. There’s a near-total lack of external conflict here - the only antagonists are a pair of gay-bashing jocks who everyone rolls their eyes at - but that almost feels refreshing. The filmmakers focus on the internal struggle, and ultimately use the reassuring world they’ve created as a reprieve.
I particularly liked the scenes with Simon’s parents - Garner’s mom is as supportive as can be, but Duhamel is surprisingly effective as the father who loves his son but struggles to reconcile his relationship with him, especially past things he may have said or done differently had he known the truth.
One quibble: there are two scenes in Love, Simon where a character is forced or urged to come out in a public setting. The first is a natural part of the story, but you might imagine this character - who feels robbed of his right to come out under his own terms - wouldn’t later push another character to do the same.
Directed by Greg Berlanti (Life or Something Like It) from a script by Elizabeth Berger & Isaac Aptaker (TV's This is Us) and based on the novel by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon brings a unique and affectionate spin to the typical high school comedy-drama. The narrowly-focused story is crafted in broad strokes, and should appeal to most audiences.