Directed by Greg Berlanti
Starring: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel
Touted as the first major studio comedy situated around a gay protagonist, Love, Simon serves its 'historic' status with respect, but also serves as a refreshing entry into the pantheon of high school coming-of-age comedies. For every generation, a film connects in a way that's honest to its teenage characters, clever in its premise and script, and charming in its sincerity. Love, Simon completely deservers its new status as this generation's The Breakfast Club, Clueless, or Mean Girls.
Nick Robinson stars as the titular Simon, a boy next door type who smiles on the outside despite living day-to-day with his big secret: he's gay. When an anonymous conversation on an online forum sets in motion his official 'coming out,' Simon must navigate his newfound attention while also trying to find his fellow mystery suitor.
Director Greg Berlanti isn't new to teenage drama. As the producer behind The CW hits 'Riverdale', 'Arrow', and 'The Flash', he's mastered the unfiltered approach to genuine teenagedom. The actors look and sound like actual teenagers. The story never feels over-trodden or unrealistic. In fact, despite the premise being LGBT-focused, it resonates as a story of finding who you are: the ultimate struggle any teenager knows well.
Like last year's Lady Bird, Love, Simon works best in its most honest moments. No one's life is as perfect as we hope it seems. Even the most confident kid in class, in this case a troublemaker played annoyingly perfect by Logan Miller, has his own demons he's covering. Katherine Langford (from Netflix's 'Thirteen Reasons Why') shines as Simon's childhood best friend. Though she isn't the first person he willingly comes out to, her compassion and care for him displays a type of tolerance most teenagers could use as an example.
The way most of the characters take Simon's news is eye-opening. For adults watching, remembering their own journey towards identity, having open arms the way Simon experiences is a dream come true. When his mom (another scene-stealing performance by Jennifer Garner) gives him an encouraging speech, it hits a nerve like MIchael Stuhlbarg's similar, loving embrace of words in Call My By Your Name. If you're not crying by the end of her speech, are you even watching the same movie?
The story and characters feel fleshed out enough, mostly thanks to the film's source material, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. As a film, there are moments when it teeters the line of feeling a little too glossy. Where other teenage dramadies, like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, master a certain grittiness that gives to the film's tugs of nostalgia, Love, Simon comes across a little saccharin at moments.
Some call out Simon's own version of his gay identity, that it may not be 'gay enough.' But, like Netflix's 'Queer Eye' speaks to, the gay stereotypes have no place in modern identity politics. Robinson, who identifies as straight in his actual life, justly finds the balance between Simon's outward appearance and stature and his inner emotional and sexual desires. Simon feels genuine from the moment we meet him. His confidence in who he is lends to his path through panic, understanding, and drive.
Love, Simon may not end the year at the top of anyone's 'Best Of' list, but it deserves as a place as a memorable and deserving piece of modern cinema. It's genuinely funny and entertaining, just as much as it's heartwarming and important.
Runtime: 1h 50min