Thursday, 22 March 2018

Love, Simon

Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon has one major flaw and a number of minor ones, but it’s a coming-of-age film that transcends its flaws and is more than worth watching (high praise from me, considering my general disinterest in high school rom-coms). 

Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is an ordinary seventeen-year-old high school student in suburban Atlanta. He lives in a large house with a seemingly ideal family: his parents, Emily and Jack (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) and sister, Nora (Talitha Bateman), and he has three close friends: his lifelong best friend, Leah (Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.) and Abby (Alexandra Shipp). It looks like the perfect life for a teenager, except for one thing: Simon is gay and he hasn’t told anyone.

When Leah tells Simon about an anonymous online confession from a gay fellow student (calling himself “Blue”), Simon’s world is turned suddenly upside down. Using an alias of his own (“Jacques”), Simon begins an email conversation with Blue that becomes a powerful way for him to talk about what he’s going through. Blue has no interested in identifying himself but Simon can’t help but wonder which of his fellow students Blue might be (there seem to be a number of good candidates). 

Unfortunately, another student (Martin, played by Logan Miller) discovers Simon’s email conversation with Blue and blackmails Simon, demanding his help in getting closer to Simon’s friend, Abby. What is Simon to do? Will he risk his friendships (and the relationships among his friends) to retain his secret? The answer to that question is Love, Simon’s big flaw. I did not find it credible. Given the central role of that answer in the overall plot, this was a huge problem for me.

I also wasn’t a big fan of the general laid-back tone of the film, helped by a score that didn’t do anything for me, or of the general teen-age rom-com antics. Love, Simon has been compared to John Hughes’s films, but that is not, for me, a positive thing. And some of the characters and acting left a little to be desired, especially in the case of Simon’s parents. The film desperately needed some of the raw quirkiness of a film like Lady Bird. I have also heard that the film is nowhere near as good as the novel upon which it is based (Simon vs. the Home Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli), but I haven’t read it, so can’t comment.

Nevertheless, despite these varied flaws, I found myself totally engaged in Simon’s plight and in the relationships between him and his friends. The acting of the teenagers was generally very strong (especially Robinson, Langford and Shipp) and the characters were relatively well-developed. And while the tone was a problem for me, the sweetness of the film was not (I have no problem with ‘sweet’ films). I found the overall story heartfelt, humanizing and life-affirming. The theme of a high-school student struggling with his sexual identity, treated in such a matter-of-fact and positive way, is long overdue. As a family-friendly film about the experience of a gay teenager, Love, Simon can hardly be praised highly enough. 

So Love, Simon gets a solid ***+. My mug is up. 

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