It is the first major studio release to focus on a homosexual teenage relationship. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox)
One of the things that has ruined the genre of teenage coming-of-age stories is that they display overly romanticized ideas of that age and time period in a person’s life. “Love, Simon” is smarter than that, and the movie showcases this through almost every element.
When a student at his school anonymously comes out as gay online, high school senior Simon (Nick Robinson) takes the opportunity to reach out to this mysterious student and anonymously come out as gay to the mysterious student as well.
The best part about “Love, Simon,” which is carried throughout the movie, is the feeling of realism that it elicits. It does not execute this story with a sense of romanticism or cynicism, but just a feeling that this is how a scenario like this could play out in real life. The only instance of romanticism that the film presents comes as the climax, and at that point it is fittingly realistic and well deserved.
A good portion of the realism that the movie portrays in thanks to the main character of Simon. He is not defined as a trope character like a jock or a nerd or anything like that, which is a common tendency to exist in coming-of-age high school movies like, but instead he is just a normal American teenager with a fully developed personality and fully developed relationships with other characters.
Credit for this success heavily rests with Nick Robinson’s performance. His acting job, particularly in the more emotional scenes that come in the last act of the movie, is fantastic and sells the scene. In fact, all of the actors are impressive and impeccable with their performances. The performances from all of the younger actors suggests that they could have bright futures ahead in the field of acting, and the acting jobs of Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel as Simon’s parents at the end help make them the best scenes of the whole movie.
And kudos to screenwriters Elizabeth Berger, Isaac Aptaker and Becky Albertalli for this as well. Their script, based on Albertalli’s book, is superb. The dialogue all sounds like things teenagers in high school would actually say and not what an out of touch, middle-aged screenwriter thinks teenagers in high school would say.
The only time where the realism of the movie is challenged is with the main problem of the movie. A fellow student, Martin (Logan Miller), finds out that Simon is gay and uses the information to blackmail Simon into helping Martin get with one of Simon’s friends (Alexandra Shipp). While this plot device does feel over the top, especially compared to the other struggles that Simon faces throughout the movie, the action of blackmailing does not feel out of character for Martin, at the very least.
While the information mentioned above is indeed a problem for the film, it does illustrate another strength that “Love, Simon” has, which is its ability to make potentially weaker material work extraordinarily well. For instance, the only part of the movie that feels romanticized is at the end. While this scene could have come across as overly sentimental and schmaltzy, everything that happens in the movie before this not only makes the movie deserving of a scene like this, but it works because of how the scene was set up.
One of the few other lackluster elements to the movie is the comedy, as the style is all over the place and not all of it sticks. For example, there are some comedic moments with characters just making off the cuff remarks to people, some based around an overly awkward vice principal (Tony Hale) and some that are just ideas that Simon has the same way the character of J.D. from the medical sitcom “Scrubs” has comedic daydreams. The jokes themselves are not cringe worthy or so bad they hurt the movie, but it does suggest an uncertainty with this aspect of the movie.
“Love, Simon” is a nearly flawless coming-of-age movie that should be held on high with classics like “The Breakfast Club” or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” when it comes to movies like this.
Final Grade: A