“Love, Simon,” released on March 16, is a by-the-books teen romantic comedy, bar one key detail: the main character is gay.
The movie is the first major studio high school romance told from the perspective of a gay teen. Other than that, the film earnestly follows a familiar plot structure and contains tropes found in the decades of teenage love stories that came before it. Despite its lack of depth in some areas, the movie is a sweet, optimistic coming out story that leaves viewers with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
Based on the novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli, “Love, Simon” is the newest film from teen drama veteran Greg Berlanti, best known for his work on “Dawson’s Creek” and the CW’s “Arrowverse” shows. Berlanti’s experience in the genre is evident in the film and he does a good job supplementing the familiarity of the plotting with genuine, heartwarming emotion and some humorous dialogue, setting it apart from your usual teen movie fare.
The film follows 17-year-old Simon Spier, a closeted gay teen living in an Atlanta suburb. After seeing the anonymous confession of another closeted student from his school, Simon begins a long series of emails with the student who goes by the pseudonym Blue. Simon develops feelings for Blue and attempts to figure out who Blue is.
Things get complicated when Simon and Blue’s exchanges are discovered by Martin, one of their classmates portrayed by Logan Miller. Not ready to tell his parents he’s gay, much less the entire world, Simon is forced to help Martin woo their friend Abby, played by Alexandra Shipp. When Abby does not reciprocate, Martin publishes the emails and outs Simon.
The positivity and normalcy the film portrays Simon’s struggles makes it pleasant and watchable, occasionally tugging at the heartstrings a bit. However, the film lacks in depth in some capacities.
While the character of Simon feels well fleshed out, partially in thanks to a stellar performance by Nick Robinson, best known for his role in “Jurassic World,” the rest of the characters seem somewhat paper-thin. The film expects viewers to become invested in the relationships and crushes of Simon’s group of friends. However, that is hard to do because they’re all cardboard cut-outs of stereotypical teen movie archetypes.
While many of the heart-to-heart scenes feature well-written, heart-warming dialogue and quality acting, especially in one impactful conversation between Simon and his mother, played by Jennifer Garner, they leave you wishing the relationships between Simon and his friends and family have been developed further, so that those moments could be even more meaningful.
Overall, Simon’s coming out story is handled with good humor and poise. Though not as intricate as similar recent films like “Lady Bird,” the film’s message of inclusion and acceptance makes it feel special. If you’re looking for some light, feel-good viewing for an hour and a half, “Love, Simon” should do the trick.