A John Hughes movie for the 21st Century, Greg Berlanti’s adaptation of the novel “Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda” emerges as a romantic comedy-drama so utterly charming, it’s nigh-on impossible not to “Love, Simon”.
High School senior Simon Spiers seems to have it all, but he’s hiding a big secret: he’s gay. When another student becomes aware of Simon’s secret having stumbled across a series of email exchanges between Simon and another closeted gay student, Simon finds himself being blackmailed to help his blackmailer pursue one of his friends.
Despite the emotional stakes of the story, there’s a strong element of fantasy in the idealised life and high school career enjoyed by Simon. In fact, were it not for his one big secret, his life would be idyllic to the point of utopia. Thankfully, Nick Robinson is perfect as the impossibly blessed Simon, supremely charming but broadcasting the burden of his secret through his eyes and body language. Katherine Langford is quietly effective as Simon’s lovesick best friend while Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr round out the main quartet as Simon’s friends Abby and Nick. There’s fun, too, from the too-cool-for-school Vice Principal played by Tony Hale and the brutally sassy drama teacher Ms Albright (Natasha Rothwell).
While the story generally handles Simon’s emotional arc and those of his friends well, it’s less successful with the characters undeserving of sympathy or support. Simon’s inherent goodness contrasts sharply with the sleazy manipulation of his blackmailer Martin (Logan Miller) who, in an arch caricature of toxic masculine entitlement, believes that Abby must surely fall for him if only she is made to see the ‘real’ him. Where “Love, Simon” may leave you wanting is in its failure to deliver any kind of satisfying comeuppance for the malicious characters who make our heroes’ lives difficult. Even some of the ‘good guys’, stumble inadvertently into casual homophobia behaviour once Simon’s secret is out in public. While there’s little acknowledgement of some of the harsher realities Simon might face in the real world, the film establishes a successful bridgehead into mainstream awareness and acceptance thanks to its warmth, wit and sensitivity
There may be some for whom the movie’s subject is deeply personal or painful who feel that its rose-tinted view of life does the important topic a disservice and while the film undoubtedly plays it safe, it never tries to downplay the truth at its core and there’s a real power in delivering this kind of feelgood romantic dramedy with a gay lead character. Yes, it’s a fluffy, sweet and sentimental gay love story at heart but “Love, Simon” has universal appeal thanks to its likeable cast and heart-warming escapism and touching romance.