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Film Reviews Review: Love, Simon is a long overdue same-sex rom-com

Nick Robinson stars in Love, Simon.

Ben Rothstein/Twentieth Century Fox

rating

  • Love, Simon
  • Directed by Greg Berlanti
  • Written by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker
  • Starring Nick Robinson and Jennifer Garner
  • Classification PG; 109 minutes

After a landmark year for LGBTQ films with specificity – one in which Moonlight won best picture at the Academy Awards and Call Me by Your Name, Beach Rats, and God’s Own Country explored gay relationships in the Italian countryside, the outskirts of Brooklyn, and a sheep farming community in Yorkshire, respectively – wealthy white people in suburban America finally have an epic gay romance to call their own.

Helmed by Greg Berlanti (the force behind The CW’s Riverdale and most importantly, the showrunner during the second season of Dawson’s Creek, which ushered in television’s first gay kiss), Love, Simon is a smart and genuine teen rom-com, made for the masses and the multiplexes. Making history as the first gay film to be financed by a major studio (that’s 20th Century Fox), it proves that in 2018, you don’t have to be gay to love a gay love story.

The film centres on Simon Speirs (played by the comely, corn-fed Nick Robinson), a senior in high school with a doting family, a crew of close-knit friends, and one “huge-ass secret” – no one knows that he’s gay. Simon is the chauffeur and confidante among his family and friends, navigating life with a knowing, Ferris Bueller-like serenity that perhaps college is the time for his coming out.

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However, he soon comes to a crossroads when he reads an anonymous confession by a fellow gay student on his school’s message board. Making a bold move for the first time in his life, Simon tells his huge-ass secret to the other anonymous student, beginning an intimate email exchange between two strangers who feel like they could be each other’s soulmates. Both express their fear and desire of coming out as they navigate their regular lives at high school, falling for each other in the process à la You’ve Got Mail.

An unexpected chain of events, including an elaborate manipulation of many other students’ attractions for each other (it feels like a Shakespearean comedy of errors by way of The CW), eventually forces Simon to come out against his will, as he learns that honesty is the only way to earn his climatic first kiss on a Ferris wheel.

Society has waited a long time for a film like Love, Simon and there is much to be applauded in Berlanti’s feature, including its self-aware humour, relevant social commentary, and wonderful supporting cast (especially the members of the faculty, played by Tony Hale and Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell, who nearly steals the movie as a frustrated drama teacher directing a horrible production of Cabaret). It is an extremely entertaining and fairly woke movie for anyone who wants to understand the complexities of coming out, and will be an incredible resource for families of gay teenagers.

But while Love, Simon affords nearly every other supporting role deep and unique characterization, its blandly likable protagonist can only function as a Trojan horse to usher in queer empathy on screen. Sadly, Simon himself has no distinguishing characteristics outside of his own gay-ness, including any interests or opinions that could possibly offend or threaten his extremely important loveability. Finely calculated to appeal to as many moviegoers as possible, Robinson’s queer kabuki act is all self-effacing middle-aged screenwriter jokes, pop-culture references, zip-up hoodies, and Justin Bieber puppy dog eyes. He rarely gets to make a bad or selfish choice and has zero flaws, except for perhaps being too understanding, and too adorable. And this feels extremely unfortunate when the need for LGBTQ teenagers to see themselves on screen has never been more crucial.

Confessing your feelings and being honest about what you desire is one of the most vulnerable and hardest things to do, especially when you’re young enough to have zero tools (but thankfully, a lot of pornography) at your disposal. It’s fantastic that a whole new generation now has Love, Simon in the canon of queer cinema. As a consumer, it is simply your responsibility to see it, just so that many more Love, Simons can be made. There are worse things to spend your money on than this adorable teen gay comedy whose worst quality is its boring straight man.

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