As the first major studio movie to centre on a same-sex romance, this adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s cult young adult novel already feels hugely significant. But Love, Simon isn’t just a more woke, more inclusive kind of teen flick; it’s also a very funny, very touching teen flick that could help to revitalise the genre as Clueless did in the ’90s.
Clear-skinned, confident and popular at his affluent Atlanta high school, Simon (Jurassic World‘s Nick Robinson) looks like your typical teen hero. But as he tells us in an opening voiceover, his life isn’t quite as #blessed as it seems because he’s gay, and no one knows it yet. When a fellow student comes out anonymously in a blog and leaves a secret email address, Simon sets up his own secret account and the two form an increasingly close email friendship. But then douchebag Martin (The Walking Dead‘s Logan Miller) happens upon Simon’s secret account on a school computer and threatens to ‘out’ him unless he sets him up with attractive pal Abby (X-Men’s Alexandra Shipp). At first, Simon’s desperation to keep his sexuality hidden leads to some dodgy decisions, especially relating to best friend Leah (13 Reasons Why‘s Katherine Langford). But gradually he embraces who he is, opens up to his parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel), and resolves to find out the real identity of the guy he’s emailing and starting to fall for.
Directed by Greg Gerlanti (who cut his teeth on Dawson’s Creek and now produces Riverdale), Love, Simon isn’t interested in sending up or subverting teen movie tropes. There are familiar visuals (an isolated Simon wondering where to sit in the canteen, hordes of kids piling into school corridors as the bell rings), and Veep‘s Tony Hale plays the obligatory wise-cracking teacher. But Gerlanti’s film subtly pushes the envelope by placing an LGBTQ character front and centre and surrounding him with the sort of unselfconsciously diverse supporting cast that will eventually become the norm. Love, Simon is never risqué or massively stylistically adventurous, but it manages to sneak in a clever joke about Grindr and a playful fantasy dance sequence set to a Whitney Houston banger. Scenes in which Simon speaks candidly about his sexuality with his parents are sensitive, realistic and very affecting.
Though Simon isn’t let off the hook for hurting his mates, this is a fundamentally sweet and well-meaning film that holds no grudges. It’s also an old-fashioned romance that in one key way isn’t old-fashioned at all. Even cynics won’t be able to resist.
Release date: 6 April 2018
Director: Greg Gerlanti
Starring: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp