Released: 29th March 2018 (Australia)
Seen: 27th February 2018 (Mardi Gras Film Festival)
“I’m just like you”
Simon Spier (Played by Nick Robinson) is just like every other teenage boy. He has a pair of loving parent’s, a sister who inflicts bad cooking on him, a cute dog named after a pop star and a lot of issues at school. What Simon also has is one big secret… he’s gay. He’s gay and no one knows it yet, not even Bieber the dog. One day he finds a message on a school blog from another closeted student and emails this mysterious person, hiding behind the name Jacques, to strike up a friendship over their shared secret. That friendship soon turns into a crush and now Simon want’s to find out who the mysterious Blue is, all while trying to navigate his own coming out story.
To call this film a coming out story is to undersell its importance. This film is pretty much the gay teenage experience condensed into two hours. Everything from the awkward nervousness around family making jokes that involve the word “Fruity” to the genuine dread that coming out will change everything, all the way up to that elation of actually finding out that it’s all OK. All of that is in here and it’s wonderfully done. Occasionally the movie takes a break to divulge into one of Simon’s fantasies like how he’ll be completely out of the closet when he goes to college (Set to Whitney Houston music, naturally) or how it’s unfair that gays are the only ones to come out, leading to the scene shown in the trailer where his straight friends all come out to their parent’s. That scene got howls of laughter from the Mardi Gras audience, mostly because every single one of us has had that exact thought. Seeing Simon trying to work out just who is the mystery man that he’s emailing actually makes for a compelling plotline, and done particularly well because every time he thinks he’s worked it out we see that person writing the emails back to Simon. It’s a clever little visual trick that helps the audience really side with Simon and understand his story better. I will admit that there’s an element of the story that I feel went on too long that involves Simon’s secret, but that could be because the second character it involves is so annoying.
“What if the world doesn’t like you?”
The acting in this movie is, for the most part, really good. Nick Robinson as Simon is, obviously, a stand out who really managed to not only make Simon endearing and charming, but we could see so much vulnerability that absolutely sold how scared his character is to come out. I also loved his trio of friends, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr are really compelling in their roles and, if we’re being honest, they have to provide the most important element of the plot in the second half of the movie and all three of them absolutely sell it. I buy these four people as friends, they have a natural chemistry together that really just works. There’s also Logan Miller rounding up the students playing the biggest jerk on the planet and while I get that he’s meant to be annoying, there’s a fine line between being an annoying villain and just being an annoying character and he tiptoes that line so delicately. We could’ve lost about half of his plot and I’d of been fine, he may be an important element to the story but god damn does his plotline drag on forever.
The adult cast has got some pretty good standouts. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel as Simon’s parents are a great pair who really have some great moments together and with Simon. I actually wish there were more scenes where we got to see them interacting with Simon after his coming out because those really are some of the emotional highlights of the movie. The other major highlight in the cast is Natasha Rothwell as Ms Albright, a take-no-nonsense drama teacher who has some of the best scenes in the film. Every line of dialogue she has gets a gut laugh out of the audience and is probably single-handedly the funniest person in the film. For the most part, the adults are well cast… except Tony Hale who has now played a teacher in two films I’ve seen this year, the other being 15:17 to Paris, and both times there’s been something awkward about it. This one might be worse because the character he’s created is way too chummy with the students. We’re talking “Talks about the tinder date he went on” levels of chummy, to a level where any other teacher would more than likely be reported for being a total creeper. I like Tony Hale, he’s a great comic actor, can we please stop making the man pretend to be a teacher? It’s uncomfortable at this point.
“I deserve a great love story”
Visually this movie is pretty much like any other teen drama film, which I’m fine with. This kind of film doesn’t need fancy tricks, it needs to focus on the story and it does that really well. Some moments like having Blue be faceless until Simon thinks “Oh, I know who Blue is”, then having Blue be played by that person, are nice little moments. Most of the film is just well shot in the same way that a hundred other romance stories are well shot, and that’s fine.
This film is incredibly well put together, the director had his work cut out for him trying to find a way to make a coming-of-age tale feel fresh and I think he pulled it off for the most part. There might be a few mild issues just involving pacing, some stories taking too long and other’s not getting enough time, but those can be overlooked easily because there’s also some pretty stellar work being shown and you can tell that this director put his all into making sure he got this story right. For the most part, I think he did just that.
Love, Simon is absolutely charming, funny and a story that’s easy to get invested in. This is the exact kind of movie I wish had been around when I was coming out, the story of a boy trying to understand what it means to be gay and how that’ll change his life is something I feel everyone should see. It’s going to make you laugh and make you well up at moments, it’s got a ton of heart and some very important ideas to get across. Sure some parts aren’t perfect, but they work for this story. Just go see this movie, you will have a good time. I promise.