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LOVE, SIMON gets 7.5/10 Simon says

Directed by Greg Berlanti
Starring Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel

7.5/10

Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is your average teenage boy, with a loving family (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner play the parents), a great group of friends, and a secret that none of them know. Simon is gay, a fact that he’s unwilling to share with the rest of the world at the moment, and one that he’s mildly pissed it’s seen as his onus to disclose (after all people don’t have to come out if they’re straight). However when his friend, Leah (Katherine Langford), informs him of an anonymous online confession by a gay student at his school, Simon contacts “Blue” and starts a correspondence that turns romantic in nature. As Simon tries to unlock the secret of “Blue’s” identity, his own alias of “Jacques” is discovered by another student (Logan Miller).

The remarkable thing about Love, Simon is how unremarkable the concept actually is. Based on Becky Albertalli’s popular young adult novel Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, this is a standard teen romance in a typical John Hughes mode, and yet because its protagonist is gay, everything suddenly feels revolutionary. And in many ways it oddly is, not that it’s not covering ground that we’ve not seen before in cinema, but that it has moved beyond the indie and arthouse set, and transitioned into mainstream cinema. It also has the added bonus of being the first of the recent set of films riffing on 80s teen cinema that feels specifically aimed at that demographic (both Lady Bird and Edge of Seventeen are pitched older).

All of which Love, Simon handles surprisingly well. It folds its larger social concerns into the personal storytelling, while still managing to create a slightly off-kilter high school environment that is larger than life (seriously the teachers are amazing caricatures, but hilarious for it). Simon is certainly no saint, and placed on the horns of a dilemma, chooses a selfish albeit understandable path at the cost of doing what is right – of course allowing for personal growth and development at the end of the film. Which is perhaps the one area where we do see some evolution, Love, Simon is less dialectic than would be the case in a Hughes film, and almost everyone gets some tilt at redemption (save for a couple of minor characters). In short it gives everyone understandable motives for what they do, and empathises with them even if they do make a terrible decision – especially Simon.

It’s easy to see why as well. Nick Robinson is charming as Simon, and breathes life and soul into the character. As an audience you quickly empathise with his plight and are swept up in his whimsical, although somewhat unreliable narrative mixed with day dreams. You can also see the fears that drive him, and that coming out might cost him his peers, his friends, and his family. At a time of life when you’re both struggling with developing your identity and in an environment that is a powder keg of peer group pressure and social hierarchies, it’s also easy to see how these fears are magnified.

A heart-warming teen romcom that will tug at more than a few heart strings. The surprising thing is it took this long for a film like Love, Simon to be made, but thankfully the results are almost worth the wait.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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