Greg Berlanti’s “Love, Simon” has a message that it continually revokes at the audience. Consistently stated by its lead, and always reminding the viewer of its importance. That message is how Simon (Nick Robinson) is just like you. He has the cliche sports dad (Josh Duhamel) and valedictorian mother (Jennifer Garner). He lives in a beautiful home that maintains that warmness of love kind of feeling, one that is also encompassed by his aspiring chef of a little sister (Talitha Bateman). He has a family dog, and a rundown car that is cramped with his teenage friends on every morning drive to school. They drink coffee, eat a bunch of carbs, and listen to music that their adults can’t stand. He’s just like you, except he has one big ass secret, he’s gay.
It’s your stereotypical, Nicholas spark-like, teenage rom-com. It handles characters and their actions with extreme levity, but that constant message of “he’s just like you,” is one that induces me with upliftment. The story is structured that way too, as Simon (Nick Robinson) and his teenage group of friends: Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexandra Shipp), and Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale) find themselves living on cloud nine. Simon (Nick Robinson) has his big secret though, until he learns that he’s not the only one that has one as, on a social media forum, someone comes out anonymously with the alias Blue. Simon (Nick Robinson) tracks down his email address and begins to reach out and form a relationship with this stranger named Blue that somehow starts to win his heart.
Simon (Nick Robinson) wins his too, exchanging stories of how they first discovered their sexuality, their first crushes on male celebrities like Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Kit Harington (Jon Snow). They express their fears of coming out, love for Halloween Oreos, but fear to exchange their identities, both because of the risk, and because the screenplay needs to be long enough to be a feature-length film.
Nonetheless, all seems to be well, until a character named Martin (Logan Miller) begins to foil everyone's happy going lifestyle. He’s got a crush on Simon’s (Nick Robinson) friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp), and after he stumbles upon Blue and Simon’s (Nick Robinson) emails, he decides to blackmail Simon (Nick Robinson) in exchange for assistance in winning over Abby (Alexandra Shipp). It’s an underhanded and far more cynical thing to do than the film would care to admit, but like I said, “Love, Simon” is just like anything we’ve seen before.
The plot can become predictable, and the characteristic traits of the screenplay are all present. The overly friendly principal, Mr. Worth (Tony Hale), the teenage romance drama, and the constant over and under reactions to things when they finally do come to light. It’s all familiar, except it narrows itself down on a subject that is all too unfamiliar to this kind of normality in a film.
It’s not just that we have a gay kid as our main character, it's the way Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger’s screenplay treats him. Adapted from Becky Albertalli’s novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” Simon (Nick Robinson) is not an overly flamboyant man (not that there's anything wrong with that), nor is he someone that doesn’t seem familiar. He’s everything that we would identify as normal, something his sexuality should be treated like as well.
Though the screenplay takes a lot of it's more negative moments for granted, “Love, Simon” doesn’t precisely stray away from the hardships that being gay in America can present either. The bullying, the overwhelming fear of being unwelcomed, and the constant dread of being labeled as something different, just because one aspect of yourself isn’t welcomed by everyone else. It’s a tough thing to know, that with one simple phrase, your life would change forever. Something that Simon (Nick Robinson) mentions in the film itself, leading to a hilarious musical number in which he swears he’ll be proud and gay when he gets to college.
Berlanti is no stranger to that kind of teenage anxiety; he understands the synapses that must fire to make the teenager's brain feel palpable and believable in a film. He understands their irrational, intensified, and depthful emotions. He frames the movie like the story, providing a normalized lense and familiar tones of music that fit with the program presented. He never makes the film about him, never having some kind of flashy cinematography or witty camera trick. Instead, he takes a back seat to the dominant themes of the social anxieties and the smart teenage fears that are presented by “Love, Simon.” The film has a multitude of moments that exemplify that, whether it's Leah (Katherine Langford) talking about feeling as if she’s on the outside looking in, or Simon (Nick Robinson) struggling to cope with everyone discovering his secret. These emotional depthful moments aren’t sacrificed for humor or levity; they’re blended and work in tandem.
“Coming out” movies are rarely this uplifting. Usually, they narrow on the themes of rejection and sometimes the deadly repercussions that can become tragically prevalent, “Blue is the Warmest Color,” “Call Me by Your Name,” and now “Love, Simon” are a few of the films that rebuttal against that notion. There is no punishment for their sexuality, no judgment from their peers or parents, and a constant feeling of moving forward towards something better than yesterday. Not all of us can say our family or friends have welcomed our sexuality with open arms, but seeing it on screen is something that feels cathartic.
Like the long exhale that Simon’s (Nick Robinson) mother refers too in one scene, we’ve held our breath, walked on eggshells, and always felt more alone than we should have. Now all of us who find themselves apart of the rainbow flag can take a long, overdue, deep breath. A deep exhale that “Love, Simon” assists in manifesting alongside its prideful brother and sisters.