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Ryan Leach: What’s Not to Love about ‘Love, Simon’?

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Alot of things about Love, Simon, are seemingly unrelatable, from the affluent neighborhood where the weather is light-jacket-optional year-round, to the perfectly diverse high school that seems to have come right out of a Central Casting catalog.

By Ryan Leach

Despite this Disney-esque backdrop, the gravity of the story carries some hefty emotional weight that makes the gay teen rom-com/coming-out story worth seeing.

The screenplay by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker is based on the young adult novel, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli. The story centers around the titular, 17 year-old Simon Spear, played by Nick Robinson, who emphasizes from the start that he is a normal kid with a normal family in a normal town.

But Simon has a secret. He is gay and no one knows. It is quickly revealed that another local teen, at the idyllic Creekwood High School, is also lingering in the closet. He and Simon begin emailing each other anonymously about their respective struggles. Simon eventually develops feelings for “Blue,” the pseudonym of his pen pal, and tries to determine his identity based on clues from their interactions.

Meanwhile, Simon continues to happily exist alongside his three best pals, Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexandra Shipp) and Nick (Jorge Lendenborg Jr.). But life suddenly ceases to be all iced coffees and light jackets for Simon. He is blackmailed by a fellow student who discovers his secret and pressures him to manipulate his friends, lest that secret be revealed through social media. Thus begins the audience’s journey, as Simon juggles deception, self-preservation, and a burgeoning online boyfriend.

The story itself does not reinvent the wheel. Director Nick Berlanti makes no attempt to find even the most remote level of nuance in the world in which the story is set. Perhaps that is for the best.

The script offered by Berger and Aptaker is tightly written and moves along at an acceptable pace. It does not get bogged down with trying to explain away the world’s problems via its simple but important story. When Simon’s web starts to untangle in the final act of the film, it gives way to some beautiful moments.

The whole movie is prescriptive in structure, but that is forgiven when Simon has tear-jerking scene after scene with the supporting cast of friends and parents. All of these scenes go the way every queer person hopes their coming out goes, but with slight variations on a theme. To that end, Love, Simon is a perfect “How To” playbook for families and friends of queer teens and adults everywhere.

It is in these nicely crafted moments in this perfect town where Berlanti could have taken a turn for the saccharine. However, he manages to create sincere moments that allow the audience to suspend any disbelief. Love, Simon may have some cosmetic imperfections, but it gets right the emotional turmoil of coming out, from the stress of understanding what it means to be queer; to the devastation of being outed; to the relief of being accepted —whether that be by others or by yourself.

Love, Simon does not try to tell the coming out story for every queer person, and it is that lack of ambition that makes the story work. The movie is not Moonlight or Blue is the Warmest Color. Heck, it isn’t even Call Me By Your Name. But it is a sweet and heartfelt contribution to queer cinema and worth checking out. If you are queer, it might give you the cathartic experience you never had, and if you aren’t, it will give you some insight as to the remarkable experience it still is to be an LGBTQ teen in America.•

 

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.
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