Seventeen year old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) lives a happy, everyday life spending time with his friends and his loving family, counting down the days until graduation, all the while hiding the fact that he’s gay. So when someone from his school, under the name “Blue”, reveals that they’re gay on an online message board, Simon begins a correspondence with him, revealing his secret and gradually building up a special relationship with his newfound confidante, always wondering just who it could be. But when someone gains access to Simon’s e-mails, he risks having his big secret exposed and must make some questionable decisions to keep things under wraps.
A huge part of what makes Love, Simon work so well is its characters because, with the exception of one or two bad apples, the people in this film are warm and caring, the kind of people who you’d love to have in your life, and they’re all played passionately and with care and affection by its excellent cast. As our lead protagonist, Nick Robinson is ideally cast as Simon and what’s great is that although he’s a “normal, everyday American teenager”, he’s still interesting to watch and isn’t a boring blank slate without defining characteristics or personality; he’s a really nice guy with great friends and a fine taste in music and we can clearly see how conflicted he is about the idea of coming out to the world and how bad he feels about having to wrong his friends in order to preserve his secret. The charismatic Robinson effectively shows Simon’s sense of fun and joy while also conveying despair, uncertainty and sadness and all in all, Robinson is excellent in the role, making Simon a perfectly likeable and wholly supportable protagonist.
Alongside him, the actors who play his friends and family are wonderful as well. Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp (this is a much better opportunity to showcase her talents following the dismal X-Men: Apocalypse) and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. play the parts of Simon’s friends and their performances are energetic and choc full of warmth, passion and soul, giving us a supportive group of friends who are always great to watch and who you’d just love to be around in real life. Simon’s family are just as great, being that supportive and close-knit (though perhaps too good to be true) family whose love for Simon you never ever doubt; Josh Duhamel is cool, charismatic and funny as the dad (whose character reminds us that we can sometimes make off-the-cuff jokes that unknowingly offend certain people) and Jennifer Garner is lovely and caring as Simon’s mom, getting to rattle off a truly affecting speech about Simon finally “being able to breathe” and be more like himself than he was before.
There are also really great turns from
Wally West Keiynan Lonsdale, Logan Miller, Natasha Rothwell and Tony Hale, though his “down with the kids” vice principal character is sometimes a bit too silly and unrealistic.
With films like this, there’s always the danger that things could get too soppy and oversentimental but while the trailer may have made I, Simon look this way, the film never really crosses the line into mawkishness and remains bearable and charming throughout, although it can’t escape being slightly syrupy towards the end when the inevitable heart-to-hearts occur. In this regard, director Greg Berlanti does a great job in keeping the tone just right, giving us a smart story that’s full of important, hard hitting issues and emotional speeches but which never crosses the line into “after school special” territory. Love, Simon ends up being a smidge too long and it all pretty much stays on the same level throughout but those nit-picks aside, Berlanti helms the feature confidently and professionally, creating a film with an immersive and warm atmosphere that is easy and pleasurable to let yourself get lost in. Music is also used well to keep things lighthearted and to give the film that classic indie, high school vibe.
As hinted at before, the film’s story is particularly strong as it is a smart, funny, interesting and thoroughly modern high school tale about attitudes towards homosexuality and coming out in this, the millennial generation, asking why it’s necessary to come out of the closet in the first place since being heterosexual shouldn’t be “the default”; it’s a thoughtful and relevant story that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is easy to stay engaged with. Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger’s writing is both humorous and heartfelt and all of the dialogue is written perfectly, keeping us constantly engaged with the characters and letting us get swept up in their lives.