It’s no secret that one of Hollywood’s favorite things to do is adapt a critically acclaimed piece of young adult literature onto the big screen. Based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon follows high school senior Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) as he wrestles with living out a typical teenage life and coming out to his family and friends. At first glance, Love, Simon appears to be next in line in an assembly line of young adult novel adaptations that are doomed for mediocrity, but it very quickly becomes apparent that there’s some depth to the titular lead. The film is often funny and heartfelt, with some truly touching moments that evoke some feel-good Hughes-ian vibes for more contemporary audiences.
In this Internet driven age, Love, Simon tells a very modern story about love and acceptance. Things start off rather normal. Simon and his friends are all theater geeks who lead relatively standard lives until one night, Simon stumbles upon a post on a local gossip website wherein one of his classmates has anonymously come out as gay. This prompts Simon to email the poster, Blue, as he feels he’s found someone he can relate to and confide in. This is perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the film, as audiences are taken along for the ride while Simon and Blue become closer and closer. This ultimately builds up interest around the identity of the mysterious Blue.
At its core, though, Love, Simon is still a teen rom-com and it unapologetically taps into some the genre’s more cheesy cliches like teen love triangles and out-of-touch adult figures. Beyond Simon’s efforts in finding out who Blue is as he falls deeper in love with this anonymous pen-pal, the film devotes some time to showcasing the predictable love struggles that plague Simon’s straight friends. For all the time they spend on the screen, however, there’s little effort put into the actual development of these complementary characters who take a backseat to Simon and his struggles. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, considering Nick Robinson delivers a phenomenally versatile performance, playing Simon as awkward, charming, and ultimately vulnerable — everything a teenager tends to be and more. Robinson’s skills as an actor are only bolstered by Greg Berlanti’s direction. As an openly gay man, Berlanti is able to bring a touch of authenticity and sincerity to Simon’s character.
The featured adults in this film are also mostly relegated to comedic relief roles. Wannabe-cool-guy vice principal Mr. Worth (Arrested Development’s Tony Hale) and no-nonsense drama teacher Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell) both elicit some laughs, though their dialogue often teeters on over-the-top and and their interactions with the kids come off as unrealistic. That said, Simon’s parents, played brilliantly by Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner, are among the film’s most notable performances. Duhamel and Garner bring their experience to the film and add a very real serving of empathy and the scenes of Simon coming out to them and the ensuing conversations are among the most emotionally-packed in the film. The film’s climactic scene in which Simon waits a top a ferris wheel for his mystery lover is also grossly cliche in how it sees nearly everyone in the town gather to cheer Simon on.
Representation matters a great deal and Robinson’s portrayal of a closeted gay teen is sure to resonate with kids who have never seen a character like themselves accurately portrayed on the big screen. With its strong performances and overwhelmingly positive message of love and acceptance, Love, Simon delivers a heartwarming story of self-identity and self-love that anyone in attendance will be able to connect with.
Mario Avalos is a senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, along with certificates in Film Studies and Professional and Public Writing.