Love, Simon (2018) (Review)

When you want a film to succeed, you can sometimes become blinded by the quality of the actual film; so intent on it becoming a cause for something more, you can lose focus of your objectivity as you root for a triumph. Love, Simon, the first gay teen romance film to be financed by a major Hollywood studio runs that very risk -- but to my relief, it is every bit as charming and significant as we will it to be.

Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) has a close and loving family, three best friends and a largely happy, privileged life -- but nobody knows that he's gay. When an anonymous online confession of a closeted gay student at their school is posted, Simon begins communicating with him, concealing his own identity. The two confide in each other and form a connection -- but when their emails are discovered, Simon runs the risk of being exposed to the world and fears the change such a discovery would make. Co-starring Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr, the Nick Robinson-led drama is based on Becky Albertalli's novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Love, Simon is a real watershed moment for cinema. While LGBT cinema has really blossomed lately, with the likes of Call Me By Your Name, God's Own Country, Moonlight and Carol receiving their fair share of success and accolades, they were all arguably designed to appeal to more niche audiences. Love, Simon unapologetically goes for the mainstream, attempting to bring Hollywood into the 21st century with a homosexual character leading a major studio-financed teen romance. It's about time, quite frankly.

With a story of love, acceptance, defiance and bravery, Love, Simon is bound to inspire people of all varieties. Adapting Albertalli's novel, Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger deliver their take on a tried and tested formula with a refreshed perception, one with a wider appeal than you may initially realise. While it's not especially inventive or subversive with the genre's tropes and cliches, it embraces them as it goes, creating richer character than may usual populate a genre entry of this sort. They feel lived in and dimensional - particularly Simon and his friends - and while some are painted with broader bushstrokes with some fairly hammy performances from a few, it all adds to the charm of Love, Simon.

These characters are enlivened by a strong ensemble, although there's no doubt that this is Nick Robinson's time to shine. Approached with a vulnerability that makes Simon instantly likeable and relatable, Robinson is endlessly emotional and layered as Simon; he makes mistakes and he learns from them, with his internal conflict excellently and believably executed and showcased. He's charming and generous with his performance, bound to be felt profoundly by many. You are firmly with him on his journey, something intensified when you watch this with a busy, loving audience -- so make sure you take all your friends! 

Robinson has got a strong crop around him to elevate the story and its themes further. Duhamel's misguided but well-meaning Dad will be a recognisable figure, played and balanced well; Garner is responsible for one of the film's most touching sequence, oozing with feeling and sentiment in a moment that will become a mantra for some going forward. 13 Reasons Why's Langford manages to sell Leah's own struggle with her feelings effectively, ensuring that it never takes away from the central story but can still be felt nonetheless. Shipp and Lendeborg Jr both nail the comedic and more serious moments, really benefiting the tone of the film. No doubt, Tony Hale and Logan Miller overplay their characters but they've each got some terrific one-liners and moments.

Greg Berlanti does a terrific job adapting the script for the screen. He conveys a great deal of emotion with the piece, particularly during the more intimate moments which is scored by Rob Simonsen's lovely score and a well-calibrated soundtrack fantastically. Often crowd-pleasing, he covers a lot of ground and encompasses a number of genres within Love, Simon's lean 110 minute runtime -- I found myself eager to continue spending time in the world Berlanti cultivates: a fulfilling, warm-hearted environment that celebrates our individuality and differences. There's a strong element of mystery and the film remains surprisingly suspenseful throughout, representative of Simon's internal struggle and journey of acceptance and bravery.

Love, Simon isn't only an important moment for cinema, but it happens to be a really, really good film too. In terms of story and the sub-genre, it's not overly inventive but the refreshed perspective, heartfelt filmmaking techniques and impressive performances help ensure that it's impact will be felt far and wide. Nick Robinson and Greg Berlanti's noteworthy efforts provide a touching, life-affirming story that will lodge itself in the hearts of many; an inspiring piece of filmmaking the world needs.


Summary: The importance of Love, Simon shouldn't take away from what a beautiful film it is in its own right. Led so wonderfully by Nick Robinson and providing a refreshing perspective to the teen romance genre, Love, Simon is such heartfelt filmmaking bound to inspire and move many.