Every generation has its own coming of age story. For kids growing up in the “plugged in” age, Love, Simon will prove to be a relatable look at high school life at a time when nothing stays hidden for long online. With the web at their fingertips, rumours spread like wildfire and secrets are shared quicker than a game of Chinese whispers. In Simon Spier’s (Nick Robinson) case, his secret is that he’s gay.
The story follows Simon after a fellow closeted classmate comes out online under the pseudonym ‘Blue’. Tracking down Blue’s email address, Simon reaches out to him using his own alias and, under the shield of anonymity, the two quickly become digital pen pals. Sharing their thoughts and feelings with each other, things start to get complicated after Simon realises he might be falling in love with Blue and starts attempting to uncover his identity.
Part of the film’s fun is guessing along with Simon who Blue may be. To keep audiences on their toes, the film adopts numerous narrators for Blue and this playfulness keeps the film engaging even when it feels familiar. Moreover, the film’s genuine portrayal of gay teen romance feels like a watershed moment for the well-worn coming of age narrative. A gay protagonist coming to terms with his sexuality like any other teen will speak strongly to an underrepresented audience and the film recognises this prerogative. At the same time, the film’s success lies in its ability to find the shared moments of humour and heart that will appeal to all audiences, irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, the film goes for grand gestures when dealing with Simon’s complex feelings and a few scenes feel excessively Hollywood-ised as a result. Most egregious is the films’ climactic scene where, without giving much away, Simon stages a public forum for his anonymous pen pal to reveal his identity. It’s played as a heroic moment for Simon that he’s come to terms with his sexuality and is willing to publicly fall in love. However, the over-the-top way the scene plays out is like something you’d see at the end of a hackneyed love story, and it doesn’t get a free pass here just because it’s a gay love story.
Still, much like Simon himself, the film is frequently funny, charming and easy going. It’s also fronted by a strong cast of young actors (including Perth’s own Katherine Langford) who work convincingly as a tight-knit group of friends who go through their own emotional dramas rather than simply serving as emotional support for Simon.
Ultimately, Love, Simon is more likely to be remembered for what (or rather who) it represents rather than what it achieves. The story is far from groundbreaking, but maybe its adherence to formula is a message in and of itself, that straight or gay, love is all the same.