'Love, Simon' Review: A Modern Love Story With All The Charm of the Classics
Nick Robinson steals the show in his first headlining role, as Love, Simon makes a long overdue statement.
There is no shortage of teen movies in Hollywood. And there is definitely no shortage of young adult novels to adapt into teen movies. The YA genre has been a staple of cinema for around two decades, and has been responsible for some of the most successful movie franchises in recent memory. From schools of wizardry to alien invasions (and everything in between), it feels like this genre has exhausted every possible story idea. And in this day and age, the idea of anything being the first of its kind is almost preposterous enough — let alone when it comes from the YA genre. Enter Love, Simon.
Based on Becky Albertalli's acclaimed novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, the film stars Nick Robinson as seventeen-year-old Simon Spier. Simon has it all: the perfect life, amazing parents and awesome friends. But he's hiding one huge secret that threatens the perfect status-quo of his life: he's gay. And the only person he can talk to about his sexuality is anonymous classmate, Blue, with whom he begins an online relationship.
While Love, Simon may sound like your typical YA novel-to-screen adaptation, the fact that it's primarily about a gay teen relationship instantly sets it apart. It may not be the first ever film to feature a gay protagonist, but it is the first of its kind. This isn't an arthouse indie love story that's destined to end in tragedy. What we have here is an uplifting coming-of-age tale that isn't afraid to use the tropes of its genre to tell a very normal story (albeit with a twist). And the result is a cleverly written, endearing and often hilarious teen romcom.
But it isn't just Love, Simon's subject matter that sets it apart. In fact, it feels like director Greg Berlanti has designed this film to purposely subvert our expectations. From a high school musical to a flawed student antagonist, it feels less like a YA novel adaptation and more like a classic John Hughes film. Even the film's opening sequence with the white block credits and its soundtrack all scream '80s. And there's also a decent amount of adult humor in there that you normally wouldn't see in your average YA movie — which makes for a rather refreshing change.
As a closeted gay protagonist, Simon experiences all the struggles that we would expect from anyone in his situation. Moreover, he makes us question some of the norms enforced upon us by society and outright challenges them. And in doing so, he also makes us realise the pressures of keeping this secret, no matter how blessed you are in life. While one may question his struggles due to his incredibly supportive network, the film rightfully highlights that this can actually make coming out all the more difficult. Change is a scary thing and Nick Robinson manages to convey Simon's fears on the subject beautifully.
Speaking of Robinson, the young actor has made his presence felt on the big screen in films like Jurassic World, The 5th Wave and Everything, Everything, but it's Love, Simon that finally gives him the chance to shine in a solo performance. He isn't in the background playing someone's older brother or the boy next door, he's out front-and-center with the camera focused on him at all times. And he manages to wring every last ounce of emotion out of every scene in this career-defining performance.
But it's not just Robinson who shines here. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are downright charming as Simon's quirky parents. Katherine Langford delivers a beautifully subtle performance as his best friend, Leah, while Alexandra Shipp's Abby is exhilarating to watch. And it's impossible to deny the genuine rapport between Robinson, Langford, Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. in any of the scenes revolving around Simon and his best friends.
Love, Simon may be the first major studio film to primarily feature a teenage gay love story. But that's not all it is. It's a beautiful coming-of-age story that highlights the struggles that any teen faces in high school, and expertly dramatises this through Simon's fears. It's a story of acceptance, and the importance of overcoming your fears and finding love — and that's something everyone can relate to. Berlanti has managed to encapsulate all the best attributes of the modern YA movie and melds it with the best of the classic '80s romcoms to tell a story that is long overdue — and the result speaks for itself. Love, Simon resurrected the past to set the stage for the future, and what a bright, colorful future it is.
With an incredibly talented cast, a heart-warming story and sharply written dialogue, Love, Simon is an instant classic.
Love, Simon is in theaters now!
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