As we live an age that is moving from tolerance to acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals, it remains perplexing that it has taken this long for a movie like Love, Simon to hit mainstream. For years, audiences had to go to television or independent film to find LGBTQ+ stories. While recent movies like Moonlight, Call Me By Your Name or A Fantastic Woman have earned raves, awards and such, if we look outside the film fan community, how many people have seen these movies? So, whether or not Love, Simon is as meritorious as the aforementioned films, it is worth seeking out not only because of what it means to many closeted or out teenagers across America and the world, but because director Greg Berlanti delivers a funny, endearing and genuinely entertaining movie with a charming and talented cast.
Based on Becky Albertalli’s young adult bestselling novel, Simon and the Homosapien Agenda, the film centers on its titular character (Nick Robinson) and his struggle to come out as gay to his family, friends and community. Simon’s situation, although difficult, is rather privileged. He’s from a loving home with open-minded parents (played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel), and the same applies for his friends. If he comes out, the audience feels pretty assured from the film’s opening scenes that he won’t be kicked out of his home or shunned by his community. Still, Simon laments the fact that he has to even come out in the first place. One of the film’s most pointed and hilarious moments is a montage of Simon’s friends coming out to their parents as straight. Simon isn’t wrong – straight should no longer be considered the default – but we unfortunately don’t live in that world quite yet.
At moments, we’re almost fooled that it’s easy for Simon to keep his secret, but then we see his moments of longing, often interrupted or cut short by reality. It’s no surprise that he jumps at the chance to connect with Blue, an anonymous poster on his high school’s gossip blog that reveals he’s gay but is afraid to tell anyone – just like Simon. Before we know it (literally – the movie speeds through this faster than it should), Simon falls for his email pen pal – as they share their own experiences and encourage each other to be less afraid of coming out. Things take a turn when an over-eager and awfully annoying (like truly and honestly awful) classmate, Martin, stumbles upon Simon’s email exchanges with Blue and decides to blackmail Simon about his secret. In exchange for keeping his secret, Simon must help set Martin up with his new friend, Abby (Alexandra Shipp).
Terrified of his secret coming out, Simon agrees, being forced to manipulate his friends’ feelings in order to stop Martin from telling everyone he’s gay. Anyone familiar with the rom com formula knows this won’t end well, but under pressure, we see Simon coming to terms about what it means to be in love, to be a good friend, and ultimately what it means to be gay and not have it be a secret.
His emotional journey is universal, but for once, it is specific enough to honor the experience of many young gay men who rarely get to see their reality reflected in the sweet and feel-good nature of the romantic comedy. Straight cisgender women have had this for decades, to be able to lose themselves in something that is equal amounts of light, romance and emotion. So, when Simon goes for his big gesture in the end (Spoiler? Sorry!), it feels even more momentous and sweeping in its romance. It’s a big moment for film and the teens coming to age with this movie. It’s their chance to see that these delightfully romantic grand gestures are as much for them as it is for everyone else.
Not many may bother giving this much deference to a teen romantic comedy. Love, Simon proves to be a new exception to the rom com genre, bringing Simon’s coming out story to life with heart, nuance and the ever-integral message of acceptance.
Love, Simon is now playing in theaters.