No movie in 2018 has taken me by surprise as much as Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon. What seemed like a rather generic coming-of-age story with a modest LGBTQ slant turned out to be something so much more. Love, Simon is one of the more subtly progressive films to come out from a major studio in a long time. On the surface, it is a coming-of-age tale wrapped up in a coming out story. Beneath the surface, it is such a warm and caring film that’s importance won’t truly register for years to come.
Nick Robinson stars as Simon, an average teenager who has a secret – he’s gay. His family consists of his former quarterback father (Josh Duhamel) and his therapist mother (Jennifer Gardner) along with an aspiring chef for a younger sister (Talitha Eliana Bateman). Simon also has a close-knit group of friends, Leah (Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), and Abby (Alexandra Shipp). Despite the ample support that surrounds him, Simon feels unable to out himself to the people he’s closest too despite the fact that they’re all deeply caring and understanding.
Though closeted, Simon finds an outlet when he’s alerted to an anonymous post on a website dedicated to his school about a fellow closeted student. Simon emails the anonymous poster and the two begin a correspondence, leaving Simon to guess which one of his fellow students he’s been exchanging messages with. However, Simon’s anonymous correspondence becomes complicated when he forgets to logout of his email account and Martin (Logan Miller) threatens to out Simon unless he helps the awkward loudmouth seduce Abby. This looming threat pushes Simon towards some questionable decisions that could have a deleterious impact on his closest friendships.
Where I think that Love, Simon has its greatest impact is the fact that Simon is surrounded by a support system and yet still finds himself apprehensive about being open about it. There are no cruel bigots in his midst. Thanks to the deft screenwriting of Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker’s adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s novel, the internal conflict of Simon is observable to the viewer and is only emphasized by the strong performance by up-and-comer Nick Robinson. For many this internalized struggle is foreign, and Love, Simon riffs on this brilliantly with a fantasy sequence where people are coming out to their concerned parents, tearfully confessing, “I’m straight.”
Director Greg Berlanti really pulls off quite the impressive feat as Love, Simon pretty much nails everything it’s aiming for. The emotional beats are there, and are driven home by a powerful monologue delivered by Jennifer Gardner. That uncertainty of youth is permeating throughout the film and embodied so well by Nick Robinson. But Love, Simon is also incredibly funny. As a sassy drama class teacher, Natasha Rothwell steals every scene she’s in. Veteran actor Tony Hale adds a level of care and understanding to his goofball principal. Old and young, the cast of Love, Simon is given plenty of chances to make you laugh and cry.
The Blu-ray for Love, Simon has a number of featurettes on the making of the movie. These featurettes focus on how Love, Simon differs from so many other teenage coming-of age tales. There’s also one that examines how the young and diverse cast of the film bring it to life. Then there’s even a featurette that is an homage to Atlanta, where the story was set and the film was shot; the film’s set being a mere 10 minutes away from where author Becky Albertalli grew up and set her novel. The disc also contains a handful of deleted scenes, some of which are actually quite interesting.
Love, Simon wasn’t a box office smash when it landed in theaters earlier this year, but it did okay. In time it’ll be hailed for its cultural significance and adored for its perfect balance of warmth and humor. No matter your sexual orientation, there’s something universal about the struggle to find yourself and become comfortable in your own skin. I think it’s impossible not to love Love, Simon.