“Love, Simon” is a long-awaited breath of fresh air that brings the turbulent experience of gay teenhood front and center. Nick Robinson stars as Simon Spier, a closeted teen living in an Atlanta suburb. The film’s journey follows Simon as he overcomes the fear of everyone else knowing he’s gay.
Quirky characters, an engaging plotline, emotional revelations and even a spectacular musical number create an overall compelling movie experience for viewers of all ages, backgrounds and orientations.
Everything about it is as cheesy and quirky as a classic John Hughes teen romantic comedy – and that’s exactly what makes it so great. It’s a refreshing take on the genre, with an updated and relevant twist speaking to a population often left hungry for content that straight people have in hoards.
“Love, Simon” isn’t just a “gay” film – it’s another step in the right direction for queer representation as it’s normalized and expanded into popular media. It’s also notably the first time a major studio has produced a film that unapologetically focuses on a teen’s queer identity. Director Greg Berlanti, who is gay himself, successfully brings to the mainstream world a groundbreaking, gay-teen centered, family friendly, coming-of-age coming out story.
Simon’s tightly wound secret begins to unravel after he reaches out to an anonymous blogger at his school who is also gay. As his correspondence with the mysterious “Blue” develops into a deeper connection and eventually blossoms into love, another student threatens to out him.
He makes choices that, while driven by his need to keep his secret safe, negatively affect his close group of friends. He faces consequences when his web of lies are discovered and his identity is revealed to everyone. The movie further fleshes out the supporting characters by briefly delving into their personal lives, creating a sweeping theme of encouragement and support.
The movie is thankfully not a pure angst fest, which adds to its importance because most queer films tend to be just that. It’s a life-affirming teen drama that explores the fear and bravery of coming out. It portrays themes of pride, visibility and the empowerment of queer people. The film also carries a message of hope, acceptance and unconditional love.
As a bonus, “Love, Simon” offers family members, friends and peers a thoughtful guide on how to handle someone who’s coming out as gay. The most moving scenes involve Simon coming out to his entire family, and the subsequent conversations with his parents. Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner play Simon’s parents wonderfully and offer genuine, heart-filled acceptance. Their words are full of love and affirmation that queer people deserve to hear from their loved ones and this film is a reminder of the beauty of acceptance.
In contrast, some of his peers react with malice and intolerance – a necessary, albeit softened, glimpse at the existing reality queer fears are rooted in. It’s a reminder that, even now, many people can be cruel and unaccepting.
Despite the drama, the film is lighthearted overall, but it doesn’t really delve deeply into the consequences of being closeted or how being outed can affect people. It’s a bit of a sugar-coated reality, typical to movies of this genre. Still, the film’s message of love and acceptance manages to get across in its hour and 50 minutes.
“Love, Simon” has even given many queer folks around the world the courage to come out in their own lives. A few gay actors on set felt encouraged and represented positively by the film. Robinson’s own brother came out to him during production, which, while coincidental, gave Robinson the tools to talk to him openly. Viewers can connect in some way to Simon’s story and be inspired to embrace their own identities, or that of others.
Above all else, “Love, Simon” feels like a long-needed, open love letter to the queer community. It speaks volumes and resonates with many, regardless of what stage an individual is with their journey. It’s a movie that can connect to those still figuring themselves out, those scared to express their identity out loud and even to those who’ve long come out but see remnants of their personal experience through Simon’s.