More than crafting a transcendental, nail-biting experience for the viewer, “Love, Simon” is adamant in its simplicity. The beauty of the film is how much emotional complexity and meaning the cast and crew are able to convey despite, or maybe because of, that simplicity.
The story follows Simon (played by Nick Robinson) a teen just like you or me who is struggling with managing people’s perceptions of him and discovering his identity, especially in light of his sexuality. At times, the story can feel a little too smooth around the edges. There are the typical angsty mean teenagers at school, a pitifully corny principal, and the slightly predictable ending. The story doesn’t delve very deep into Simon’s discovery or sexuality, nor does it acknowledge many aspects of adolescence aside from sexuality.
However rather than feeling like something was missing, by the conclusion of the film you feel like you know Simon, like you understand him. In part, the film and Simon’s emphasis on the ordinariness of being gay is a large part of the reason why. Diversity in media isn’t only necessary so that we can have gay people telling gay stories or black people telling black stories, we need to see minority and oppressed groups as protagonists in stories that have little to do about their struggle. This film is a large step in that direction in terms of sexuality.
On the surface, this is a “gay film” in that the plot never strays too far from Simon’s sexuality and his struggle to come to terms with it and reveal it. But the emphasis is really on Simon’s struggle with his identity, his friends and first love. Seeing a story that checks all the boxes of a good coming of age film led by a gay teen is refreshing.
One of the most surprising aspects of this film is just how funny it is. Rather than a quick exhale in acknowledgment of the joke or a chuckle, I found myself quite literally laughing out loud, multiple times.
The parents played by Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner, are some of my favorite characters in the film. They’re kind, funny, and simply everything you would want in a parent, especially, I imagine, when you’re coming out. In that sense, they’re very much like the 2018 American version of the parents from “Call Me By Your Name.” Jennifer Garner’s scene with Nick Robinson in particular very much mimics the one that Michael Stuhlbarg has with Timothée Chalamet.
The film itself is set in Atlanta which is perhaps one of the most exciting and noticeable features in the film. Exterior shots and the library scene were filmed at my school’s rival, Atlanta International School, while many of the other scenes were filmed at Grady High School. Dancing Goats, the very coffee shop where I had most of my college interviews and spent hours writing essays also makes multiple appearances. While the film by no means shows all of Atlanta, those like me who live or go to school in the area will be happily surprised by the familiarity of the movie.
Incredibly well made, “Love, Simon” is immensely more moving and sincere than it appears to be and not at all as cliche as you might expect.