Hot Take: It’s way too early to say Movie of the Year but it’s never too early to say Movie of the Year so far! Treating gay as normal as any movie I can remember, Love, Simon is one of the best “coming of age” and “coming out” films I’ve seen in recent memory.
There was a time when John Hughes ruled the box office. His wheelhouse was the high school drama and especially the high school romance. Hughes passed in 2009 and his style went out of fashion well before that but it’s proven that if you make a good, entertaining high school flick, audiences will watch. Case in point is Love, Simon which feels a little bit like a Hughes film but pulls off the restraint necessary to make an ordinary “coming of age” flick about a young gay high school student struggling with the idea of coming out to his family and friends. In it’s normalcy comes brilliance and nuance seldom seen in such a film. While it’s easy to dismiss the film’s accomplishments since many episodic television high school dramas have managed to pull off the same feat, Love, Simon doesn’t have the luxury of hours to build a compelling character worthy of winning over the audience to the point where you’ll be rooting for a happy ending for the titular character rather than just expecting one.
Simon (Nick Robinson) is an ordinary high school kid in an Atlanta suburb. He’s like most other kids in his high school class with one distinct exception. He’s gay. He’s close with his loving family. He’s close with his friends. The one exception. They don’t know he’s gay. When his best friend Leah (Katherine Langford) tells him about a kid at their school who confesses he’s gay online on the high school’s anonymous “Creek Secrets” website, Simon begins an e-mail correspondence with his fellow classmate identified as Blue. When he accidentally leaves his e-mail open, another student — Martin (Logan Miller) — uses it to blackmail him in an attempt to get Simon to help him get close with another one of Simon’s friends, Abby (Alexandra Shipp). Simon goes along with the blackmail despite knowing his other friend Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) has a crush on Abby. Meanwhile, Simon’s relationship with Blue deepens as he tries to figure out who at his high school is Blue.
There’s nothing out of the ordinary about Love, Simon. It’s like many high school tales before it. With one key difference. The main character is gay. Not only is Simon gay, he’s just a regular guy. There are no problems at home. He’s surrounded by friends. The high school is fairly stable. It’s a highly relatable character for anyone. Gay or straight. It’s a refreshing approach from Hollywood toward a subject that is usually much more layered. Love, Simon‘s choice to tell a much less complicated tale works on so many levels.
What Love, Simon is able to accomplish with this approach is to normalize the depiction of a gay relationship on screen for a younger audience. There have been normal gay relationships depicted on screen. Usually, they are reserved for adults and by the time we’re introduced to the couple, they’re already a couple. The film is also smart, funny, insightful, delicate and touching. It also shows how difficult it can be for someone who is gay to come out, no matter how great their current situation is. It’s a monumental decision and even in Simon’s nearly perfect world, when he does finally come out, things do change. (Sorry if this is a spoiler but eventually the rest of the characters in the film find out Simon is gay.)
Robinson does an excellent job as Simon. He has strung together two solid performances (he was the love interest in last year’s teen romance Everything, Everything). Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are both very good in their role as Simon’s accepting parents. His trio of friends also turn in great performances and Logan Miller is basically 2018’s Anthony Michael Hall. (If you don’t get that reference, go back and watch a few John Hughes movies with Hall in it.) There are few things, if any, I can say bad about the film. I loved every second of it and would likely watch it whenever I happened to cross paths with it on cable and might even seek it out once it leaves theaters and makes itself available for home viewing.
I can’t remember an example of a time where a film treated the subject matter of homosexuality and coming out with such respect and dignity and normalcy. Love, Simon is truly a fresh, relevant and necessary film whose success and accolades will only bring more films such as this. Ideally, we’ll reach a point where the sexuality of the main character will be as irrelevant as the color of their skin has become. It took a long time for that to happen but it’s movies like Love, Simon that will get us there.
You miss John Hughes films or you love a good coming of age flick.
I can’t think of a reason.