Teen rom-coms are a dime a dozen. Most of today from Hollywood – when it’s not busy doing remakes and reboots – can’t compare with any John Hughes films. But when someone actually makes an effort to craft a heartfelt narrative, even cynics can be won over.
Love, Simon is a teen rom-com centered around a closeted gay. But that’s not what makes this movie different. You can put it next to 10 Things I Hate About You and Lady Bird. It doesn’t resort to high school cliches of rowdy house parties, kids driving drunk, and random underage youths hooking up to liven up the plot.
This is a story about an average teen who just happens to have a different kind of struggle, filled with specificity and honesty that elevates it past your typical high school rom-com.
Simon’s narrative is filled with thoughtful and inventive moments that reflect his hopes and fears. From subtle moments such as a flash of hurt from a tame joke by his dad assuming a dude from the Bachelor is “fruity” to imagined sequences like probably the tamest rainbow-colored gay music number ever, we get to see the inside of Simon’s claustrophobic closet.
His life is set in a lived-in world filled with a familiar mix of characters. The desperate-to-be-known principal, the frustrated yet well-meaning teacher, that pair of homophobic bullies, the over-eager theater kid desperate for attention, that couple who needs to date already, and unrequited love. You can find them in plenty of high school movies, but they have enough shade of characterization to make them endearing.
Nick Robinson is bland, but delivers a great performance and serves well as the everyman for teenage boys and young male adults. So when shit predictably hits the fan, it still feels touching and sympathetic. The rest of the supporting cast is also great, with perfectly fitted casting including Tony Hale, Natasha Rothwell, and Logan Miller.
While Simon does manage to have a great love story, and anyone who hasn’t even watched the film would know this, the emotional connection between Blue and Jacques is lacking. The movie puts a clever spin on Blue’s identity by filling him in with other characters that Simon imagines who he thinks the mystery man is, but like most teen rom-com couples, they fall quick and hard.
Simon’s life is picture-perfect compared to most, with supportive parents who didn’t peak in high school, a middle-class home, and an attractive group of friends that could easily be popular.
It ends like other movies like this ends, with all the happiness and promises of youth.
Still, there is a special place for Love, Simon. It accomplishes what it sets out to do in its own safe and predictable way, like a Ferris wheel with its own slow yet simple charm.
It encapsulates the struggle of holding on to an identity, that universal moment of latching onto a song, a quote, or a person to feel connected and validated. When Leah talks about “looking from across the room” and “the line I need to cross” to voice her frustrations in fitting in, she and Simon both relate even when they don’t know each other’s secrets.
Love, Simon is a fluffy teen rom-com movie for LGBT youth who needs a reprieve from the harsh reality of being seen as an “other” and all the heteronormative romances they have to endure. I wished that my gay brother was beside me in the cinema to hear viewers cheer for Simon in the end, but the existence of this movie pleases me that he can have his own John Hughes moment.
Love, Simon has a coming of age and coming out story with specificity and honesty that makes it a heartfelt teen rom-com for LGBT youth.