Love, Simon | Greg Berlanti | March 16, 2018
Things are going well for Shady Creek High School student Simon Spier (Jurassic World & Everything, Everything‘s Nick Robinson): he gets along well with his child psychologist mom (Jennifer Garner), former high school jock dad (Josh Duhamel), and cooking enthusiast younger sister Nora (Talitha Bateman); he has a tight group of friends (Leah (13 Reasons Why‘s Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), and Abby (X-Men: Apocalypse‘s Alexandra Shipp); and he’s in the ensemble of his school’s production of Cabaret. But he’s also in the closet and has a secret e-mail penpal from his school named Blue who he’s fast falling in love with … until a moment of high school blackmail threatens to bring it all down.
This is the story at the heart of Love, Simon, the latest YA novel to be adapted for movie audiences. Based on Becky Albertalli’s 2016 novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the film by CW’s DC Universe supervisor Greg Berlanti improves on the novel. Berlanti’s natural directing, the updated pop culture references in the script from Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (who’ve most recently worked on This Is Us, among other TV shows), the cast’s rapport, and the timeliness of a high school-set coming out film all work together to result in a finished product with heart.
However, there’s some rose-tinting. While Love, Simon does have a fairly diverse cast – including soccer player Bram (Keiynan Lonsdal) and flamboyant student Ethan (Clark Moore) – to champion and drive home the point that coming out isn’t always easy (and that straight and white aren’t always the default), it’s more high school comedy trope-y than 100% realistic with aspects of coming out. Yes, Simon’s parents are supportive; yes, his friends are understanding and supportive (after the blackmail is cleared up); yes, Martin (Logan Miller), the blackmailer, is painfully cringe-worthy, especially given the independence and character development of the key female cast members (namely Abby, the focus of his attention). But given the public and social-media-driven nature of Simon’s coming out, how the school body handles it is more movie-like. The drama teacher Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell) and principal Mr. Worth (Tony Hale) are both amusing characters and supportive, but they don’t appear to strictly enforce a zero-tolerance policy with any and all related bullying in the film. There’s also the Georgia setting, which is more alluded to by the local Waffle House and hangs over the film, but coming out in the South outside of Simon’s neck of the woods isn’t touched upon as much as it (slightly) is in the novel.
The rose-tinting aside, Love, Simon is a high school romance with heart that takes its source material seriously, has great cast rapport and character development, and is destined to join the ranks of modern high school classics. Take a chance on Simon, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty to love.