Love, Simon is unabashedly making a statement about love, acceptance and the freedom to be yourself. This is a film that is a coming of age story for a new generation, but it traces its roots back to the classic teen films of the 80’s and most particularly, John Hughes films. It tells a story about being gay, coming out and self-acceptance, but its messages are applicable to all teenagers, who are almost universally trying to find themselves. As someone who had to come out to her own parents and learn what exactly it meant to be queer, Love, Simon is a film that resonated deeply with me.
Simon (Nick Robinson) is graduating high school soon, and despite his loving family, close friends and generally decent life, his is still living in the closet. When another kid, under the alias of ‘Blue’ writes about his own closeted status on the school’s secrets board, Simon reaches out, also anonymously, and shares his own story. The two start a tentative friendship and as they share their secrets over email, Simon begins to become emotionally invested in their relationship. It’s not long before he begins to search for signs of Blue in his schoolmates, and in doing so allows himself to imagine for the first time what it would be like to be in a relationship.
When a fellow classmate, Martin (Logan Miller) stumbles across Simon’s emails, he uses them as an opportunity to blackmail Simon into helping him try to date one of Simons friends, Abby (Alexandra Shipp). Simon reluctantly agrees for fear of the ostracization and scaring away the intriguing Blue. At first, it seems innocuous, but as the favors grow bigger Simon must choose between betraying his friends and having his secret revealed while also attempting to woo the reluctant Blue out of hiding.
Love, Simon emphasizes just how normal Simon’s life is several times throughout the film and makes it clear that it isn’t fear of rejection by his accepting family and friends that keeps him in the closet. Instead, the film chooses to explore how the act of coming out can feel like it is a defining moment of our lives and how much pressure and stress this can cause, even in the best of circumstances. It ties this into the experience of growing up in general and makes it easy to see how complicated it can be to navigate the world and learn to accept yourself.
While none of the people playing the main teenage cast are actually teenagers, they do have good chemistry. Nick Robinson makes Simon feel like a sweet and gentle person, even if he is a bit stiff during some of the more dramatic scenes. Out of his group of friends, Alexandra Shipps character is given the most opportunity to shine and she succeeds admirably as the much-manipulated Abby. The antagonist Martin is well served by Logan Miller, who gives him all of the uncertainty and brash charm of an 80’s teen films goofy hero while also being a selfish and entitled jerk. The surprise background character is Tony Hale, who summons up an entirely new kind of awkward for this role and is hilarious in every scene he is in.
Love, Simon doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, instead, it embraces the nuances of life and tries to explore them on screen. It allows its characters, especially Simon, to be complex and make mistakes and yet still be redeemable. It manages to do all of that while also being hilariously funny, with some great jokes that keep the tone light and engaging. Love, Simon is a fun and surprisingly deep film that sets a new standard for the teen comedy genre while also breaking new ground in its portrayal of coming out.