Review – LGBTQ romcom ‘Love, Simon’ gives the teen movie some much-needed diversity

Poster for 2018 romcom Love, Simon

Genre: Comedy
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 6th April 2018
Runtime: 110 minutes
Director: Greg Berlanti
Writer: Isaac Aptaker, Elizabeth Berger
Starring: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Logan Miller, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Talitha Bateman, Tony Hale
Synopsis: A high school senior finds an unexpected confidante when he learns that there is another closeted gay student at the school and begins corresponding with him anonymously.

 

 

LGBTQ cinema has had a tremendous year, with Moonlight‘s Oscar win and the subsequent awards season success of the European arthouse romance Call Me By Your Name. However, the world of mainstream cinema has been largely absent from this trend, until the release of Love, Simon. It’s a wake-up call of a movie that drags the teen comedy kicking and screaming into the 21st century, with the representation and diversity to match the world in which we all live today.

The title character (Nick Robinson) is an ordinary high school senior, with a close group of friends and liberal parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel). However, he is hiding his sexuality from everybody, including lifelong best friend Leah (Katherine Langford). When an anonymous student at the school reveals themselves as gay online, Simon begins corresponding with him under an alias and grows gradually closer to the man he knows only as Blue.

In almost every way, Love, Simon is an example of the archetypal teen romantic comedy. It has the same lightness of touch as something like 10 Things I Hate About You and the same brilliantly overwrought teachers, from Tony Hale‘s Tinder-obsessed vice principal to Natasha Rothwell, who steals every one of her scenes as an actor who once appeared in The Lion King, but is now stuck running the school’s drama programme. As much as the central story of this film is important, the rich ecosystem of the setting is every bit as crucial in lending it weight.

Nick Robinson, appearing in another teen romance after the surprisingly solid Everything, Everything, is perfect as Simon. He’s not the idealised prom king, but nor is he a stereotypical nerd. There’s an awkwardness to him that is plausible and relatable, which carries over to his relationship with his friends – it’s easy to believe they’ve known each other for years. The nerd caricature role, in this case, is assumed by Logan Miller as Martin. Miller, previously best known for Disney sitcom I’m in the Band, delivers a performance of many layers as Martin has the movie’s most complicated journey from a narrative perspective, as well as many of its funniest comedy beats.

It’s in those beats that Love, Simon spends much of its time, constructing one of the funniest romcoms of recent years. It rises to the next level, however, in the story it tells and the way it deals with it. This isn’t a movie where the fear of coming out is about being ostracised by family or bullied at school; it’s about the subtle changes that coming to grips with that sexuality still presents, even in the largely tolerant modern world. Simon’s first decision to come out to a friend is deliberately framed as a small, intimate moment, but it’s one that feels huge in its narrative context. Indeed, the enormity of small moments is the central theme of the movie as a whole.

The film never shies away from the fact that, first and foremost, it’s a teen comedy. The tropes of the genre are present and correct in its party scenes – red solo cups aplenty – and in one particular grand gesture of love that is an excruciating nod to many high school romcoms of the past. Love, Simon is keen to subvert these tropes while paying homage to them and it’s that which gives the movie its mischievous sense of fun.

Love, Simon triumphs through its ability to be both light-footed and immensely powerful. It keeps the tone frothy without ever losing sight of the importance of its status as almost certainly the first major studio romcom to focus on an LGBTQ relationship. As the tagline so prominently trumpets “everyone deserves a great love story”, and this certainly fits the bill for a section of society that has had its voice marginalised for too long.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

Beyond being the first mainstream studio romcom to focus on a central gay relationship, Love, Simon is a heartfelt and compelling tale that’s as packed with great performances as it is rammed with gleefully subverted teen movie tropes. This is a movie that’s undoubtedly important, but it’s not the homework assignment that it could have been. It’s as entertaining as it is significant and it might well be the best movie of the year so far.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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