Love, Simon

Love Simon

In Theatres: 
Mar 16, 2018
Running Time: 
110 minutes

Simon is your average (white, cisgender, upper, middle class) high schooler with a loving family and close friend group. He participates in drama club, helps his dad with tech stuff, and is counting down the days until he graduates. Simon is gay and holds on to this secret like man petrified to breathe. Justifiably terrified of how coming out might blow up his life, he is constantly anxious about what reaction he’ll get from his friends and family. He’s sure once he moves away for college, he’ll be able to open up and be himself. However, once the secret emails he’d been exchanging with another unknown closeted kid at school are discovered, his options for choosing his moment of revelation become severally limited. Based on the book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is a the rare successful adaption.

The cast is splendid. Nick Robinson as Simon is a full body actor who artfully communicates Simon’s tension or joy from head to toe. A film comprised of so many emails can be hard to express in a visually interesting way that is also emotionally impactful, particularly when one of the parties is a complete mystery. This is well done in large part to Robinson’s very expressive face. It’s as if you can see every word, and the intent behind them, forming in real time. You share his vulnerability and need for connection as he forms these love letters of compassion.

Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are Emily & Jack, Simon’s loving parents. They, as many parents do, assume the heterosexuality of their child. Emily, a therapist, is more insightful, but Jack frequently makes derisive jokes about “fruitcake” men. Even though neither of them are overtly negative, they don’t understand that when you joke about someone’s humanity, they will inevitably interpret that their existence is a joke to you; these jokes silencing the voices of the vulnerable.

Alexandra Shipp as Abby Suso, Katherine Langford as Leah, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Nick are the “normal” teenage friends that Simon describes them to be. They each have their own romantic entanglements, distinct personalities and drink too much iced coffee. There is a scene at the halloween party where Leah looks at Abby, dressed as Wonder Woman, in the same way that Nick (Abby’s mutual crush) looks at Abby. I did a little digging and found out this will be addressed in Albertalli’s next highly anticipated foray into the Simonverse, Leah on the Offbeat.

Even characters that live outside of Simon’s storyline fill out the film with incredible charm. Tony Hale does an incredible balancing act as the overly involved, well intentioned, but not as cool as he thinks he is vice principal Mr. Worth. Moreover, Natasha Rothwell’s (Kelly, Insecure) fed up, no nonsense, but persistent and protective Ms. Albright is a breath of fresh, realistic adulting air.

During my interview with Albertalli, I was surprised to learn that audience favorite Ethan (Clark Moore), the only out kid at school, was entirely created for the film. Ethan’s existence is a not only a delight, but wonderful juxtaposition to Simon. Ethan, despite bullying at school, is comfortable with himself and refuses to let anyone treat him as less than. He is not invincible, but he is living in his truth.

By the end of the film, so much is at stake, the hope and tension so high, the investment so deep, and the shared connection of emotions so entirely complete that when the mystery crush was finally revealed the audience surrounding me erupted in screams of ecstatic jubilation.

Love, Simon is a true delight. It is a incredible shame that it took this long for gay teen romcom to be backed by a major studio. The positive impact and power of seeing someone you can relate to discover themselves, live their lives, be accepted and fall in love cannot be overstated. Representation is something everyone deserves and we can always, and should always, go further to reach out to marginalized communities and identities and center them. Empower people to tell their own stories, because we all deserve that screaming jubilation.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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