Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: 110 minutes
This weekend I had the chance to see Love, Simon, a new feature film based on the much loved book, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I say much loved because everyone I know who has read this book has adored it, and so I knew as soon as I heard about the movie releasing that this was one I wouldn’t want to miss. That said, I will admit that I haven’t yet read the book (I know!) so this review is based purely on the movie itself, not any comparison to the book. I brought my high schooler along as my movie date, so I’ll be sharing some of her thoughts here as well.
Love, Simon follows Simon (Nick Robinson), a high school senior who is keeping a big secret: he is gay. Simon has a great family and some really close friends, and is a pretty normal teen. And while part of him knows that his friends and family would accept him if he came out, the other part of him is still scared, worried about how coming out will change how people think of him. When a fellow student posts on the school’s gossip site about being gay as well, Simon takes a chance and emails him under a pseudonym. As “Jacques,” Simon starts up an online friendship with “Blue,” opening up about being gay, his fears, and his feelings. The two boys begin to grow close and Simon would love to know who Blue really is, but Blue is not ready to reveal his identity.
Although he has opened up to Blue, Simon isn’t ready to tell anyone else. That is until someone discovers his secret and threatens Simon with exposure if he doesn’t go along with helping him snag a date. Now Simon risks alienating his friends, or else finding himself outed to the whole school. Navigating it all isn’t easy, but with his friends and family at his side, not to mention a potential boyfriend in Blue, Simon may just find his way.
Sigh. I loved this movie. Totally loved it. Like swooning, sighing, clapping at the ending kind of loved it. And I wasn’t the only one. The energy in my theater was just palpable. My daughter adored it too, as did her friends. As did pretty much everyone else I have spoken to. And while I won’t discount my enthusiasm for seeing a wide release, happy ending movie featuring a gay lead character, this movie was just so good all on its own merits.
Nick Robinson gets Simon’s teen awkwardness and stress so perfectly. There are these adorably cringe worthy moments as Simon embarrasses himself in that way we all do as teens. I could feel his terror at being outed, his fears over how his friends and family would respond, and those glimmers of first love. Robinson really makes Simon feel authentic in a way that brings him to life. The themes of young love and worries over not fitting in carry over to Simon’s friends as well, and the story does a great job really capturing their emotions. There is a great scene where Simon’s best friend Leah (Katherine Langford) talks about how she sometimes feels like there is a line separating her from other people, how even if she is with a group, she doesn’t always feel like she quite fits. It is a sentiment almost everyone can relate to, and these little touches really brought these characters to life.
I also loved Simon’s interactions with his family. It is clear his parents, played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel, really love Simon and they have a warm family. But Simon still worries about coming out. Even if you know you are loved and cared for, sharing something that changes the way people might see you can be terrifying. I particularly loved the conversation Simon has with his mother, who notes that she could tell Simon has been holding something in, that something has been burdening him but she just didn’t konw what. When she tells him “you get to exhale now,” it is a beautiful moment as she shows her understanding for just how heavy this weight has been, how scared Simon has felt, and how she hopes he can now finally let go.
I enjoyed the way the story balanced the humor and the more poignant moments. There were many times I laughed out loud, moments where I felt for poor Simon’s awkwardness and pain, and places that just made my heart soar. The scene where Simon finally meets Blue? I was positively swooning. But for all the big moments, the one that stuck with me most is a tiny little, blink and you will miss it moment between Simon and the vice principal, Mr. Worth (Tony Hale). Worth is played for much comic relief, as the way over enthusiastic, trying to be cool and relatable to the kids kind of teacher. He is over the top and we are supposed to laugh at his antics. But there is is lovely moment after people learn Simon is gay and he is having a rough time of it at school. As he walks in that day, Mr. Worth has a little pride pin on his lapel. This little quiet moment of support, of showing that he really does care and is there for Simon, completely choked me up. Just knowing that for all the hardship Simon is dealing with, that people truly do support him just gave me all the feelings.
As I said, I took my daughter to the movie with me and in her words “I totally loved it.” She laughed out loud with me, swooned along side me, and couldn’t stop telling people afterwards how much she enjoyed it. We spent the evening quoting lines at each other. I asked what she thought about how realistic it was in terms of the portrayal of the teens and how they acted and she felt like it rang pretty true. We both noted the extreme unlikelihood that Simon would have time before school to eat breakfast, pick up three friends, and stop for ice coffee every day (as my daughter noted, it would have been dark out if he really left that far before school started). And no one ever has homework. But overall, she felt that the movie captured the teen experience well. I generally did too, though the movie is perhaps a little idealistic about how everything goes down. But things work out just the way I would want them too, and that was enough for me.
Our showing was filled with teenagers and the audience was clearly enthusiastic about the movie. I love that it is so relatable to teens, that it shows people not only struggling the way kids might be themselves, but also coming out happy on the other end. But even as an adult, I found this relatable. We have all experienced fear and awkwardness, we all know worry about how we are perceived and what people will think if they know who we really are. And so there is just a lovely message here about being true to yourself, about finding those people who truly love and care about you, and being brave enough to trust in those relationships. So I absolutely adored this movie, and it is still giving me little pangs of emotion every time I think of it. Whether you are a fan of the original book, or new to the story, I can’t recommend this one enough.