The Watchers

The Watchers

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Review: Love, Simon (UK Cert 12A)

Imagine, if you will, if John Hughes made a high school movie which had a gay love story as its primary relationship. You'd pretty much get Love, Simon, a truly beautiful and wonderful comedy-drama written by Elizabeth Berger and  Isaac Aptaker- based on the novel Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli- and directed by Greg Berlanti (The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl). 

Simon Spier is an average 17 year old. He has a warm, loving, supportive family. He has a good group of friends. And he's gay, but he's not out. When an anonymous post on a school forum appears from another closeted student who calls himself 'Blue', Simon impulsively reaches out to him and they start to e-mail each other. Simon starts to fall for 'Blue' but, when a fellow student attempts to blackmail Simon by threatening to leak the e-mails, Simon must try and preserve his secret whilst trying to find out 'Blue''s true identity. 

Where the hell was this film when I was growing up? I really could have done with such a positive representation of LGBT+ youth during my teenage years. Simon is as far from a walking stereotype as you can imagine and, whilst there is another gay teen in the film who is very camp and very obvious (his coming-out scene is a particular highlight as a group of girls have to feign surprise at his news with one going so over-the-top), he totally owns it and is comfortable in his skin. Whilst some of what Simon does in the name of trying to stop himself being outed is kinda cruel to the other people involved, it comes from a place of fear which is totally understandable. He's worried about being rejected or hated; of course, when the inevitable does happen and he is outed, that isn't an issue. 

Nick Robinson (Jurassic World) gives a wonderfully warm and empathetic central performance as Simon. Even when he's meddling in others' love lives (all to stop himself being outed), you can't help but feel for him. He really captures that uncertainty and that inner tension, and- by the end- you're really rooting for him and 'Blue' to get together so they can have their 'great love story'. It's an accomplished and very authentic performance. 

Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) is Simon's oldest friend Leah, and the rapport between her and Robinson is just lovely. It feels very real. Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) is Abby, a relatively new member to the group, but a young woman who knows her own mind. Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Spider-Man: Homecoming) is very sweet as Nick, Simon's friend who ends up unwittingly bearing the brunt of Simon's desperate dating machinations. 

Logan Miller (The Walking Dead) has a difficult role to pull off: he's Martin, the student who blackmails Simon in order to get his help to get with Abby, but Martin is such a weaselly little dweeb that you almost feel sorry for him at the same time as utterly hating him. Martin's ultimate humiliation is almost unbearable, but he just- JUST- about redeems himself at the end. There are lovely performances by Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash) and Joey Pollari (American Crime) as Simon's schoolfriend Bram and a local waiter called Lyle- both of whom could be 'Blue'.  

Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are great in support as Simon's parents Emily and Jack; their individual reactions to Simon's coming out are very different, but both are emotionally affecting in their own way. There's a wonderful supporting turn by Natasha Rothwell as drama teacher Ms Albright, a strong and no-nonsense woman who gets one of the best scenes when she lays into two homophobic students in the cafeteria. The only performance which doesn't work for me is that of Tony Hale, who plays vice principal Mr Worth who is trying to be 'down with the kids' but misses by a country mile. It's excruciating, but I'm sure that's more of an issue with the script. 

There are some wonderful flights of fancy in the film- such as a scene where Simon imagines his friends coming out to their parents as straight, and a dance routine to Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)' which even Simon thinks is a bit too gay. There's also a wonderful ambiguity used throughout when it comes to the identity of 'Blue'- similar to that used in The Limehouse Golem- where, as Simon imagines different people as 'Blue', they take over the narration. 

Unashamedly romantic, funny, poignant, touching, and very authentic, Love, Simon is one of the most positive LGBT+ films I've seen in a long time. Hell, never mind the labels, it's one of the best films I've seen so far this year. Give it a go. 

Rating: 5 out of 5


Love, Simon is on general release in the UK from 6th April 2018. 

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