You should “Love, Simon”. Here’s why.
While “Love, Simon” was no “Call me by your Name”, it is still an important film in the ever-evolving politics and culture around same-sex love. More importantly — it’s a story about being different and growing up. Who can’t relate to that?
I went into “Love, Simon” having read a number of lukewarm reviews (not so for Rotten T’s, on which it scores 93%), so admittedly my expectations were realistic and somewhat diminished.
So, as the opening credits rolled following a subtle-as-a-sledgehammer Disney-esque “He’s gay!” reference for our hero, I had a momentary “uh oh, what have I gotten myself into” moment and started contemplating what episode of the “Cartoon President” I was up to, and whether I should cut my losses early.
You’ll be pleased to know, I still have to catch up on the latter, and left the former feeling an 8/10 kinda satisfied that I stayed.
For those who haven’t seen “Love, Simon”, it’s the coming-of-age and coming- out saga of Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), your boy-next-door living the seemingly perfect ‘normal’ teen suburban life.
Simon knows he’s gay, although sadly for his raging seventeen-year-old hormones the hot gardener who tends to the lawns of the house across the road doesn’t — maybe a good thing because if he did and was “curious”, this film could have gone a whole other way with an entirely different rating…just saying…
Sadly, for Simon, despite a (almost too) peachy-keen middle-class loving family that would clearly accept him, “ quirky cool” friends who would embrace his sexuality and at a time when being gay is slowly becoming less stigmatised, no one else knows either. But when a mystery person outs themselves via a local social media network for teens in the area, Simon…or “Jacques”, as he code names himself…is on the hunt to work out who the mystery person is and whether together they can offer each other the support needed to make the brave move of coming out.
It all goes horribly wrong, of course, which admittedly is where the film loses its way a little on some level, and Simon must then navigate his way to sorting out a whole shitload of personal havoc he creates as a consequence for the people he cares about most.
I can understand why those who did not like this film have criticised it for being overly schmaltzy, severely lacking in reality and with a dud ending (no spoilers) that possibly missed a chance to pull it back from near-Disney status and make it more meaningful.
I could almost fall in with this group…almost.
And yet I would push back on this because “Love, Simon” has been quite consciously made for a mainstream audience rather than the more edgy festival circuit where more risks are expected to be taken more broadly with film making.
This is ultimately for me why the film works and one of it’s core strengths.
I was completely with “Love, Simon” once past the initial awkward scenes (and overlooking the odd clumsy plot device), for while I understand there are those in the LGQBTI community who don’t want to go ‘mainstream’, which is their absolute and undeniable prerogative, there are just as many who want their lives to sit comfortably alongside the hetero community.
To have their love recognised and their lives “normalised”, which is essentially what this film is trying to do.
All power to both sides of that debate, no judgement either way.
The film’s other strength is the subtle message that it’s more generally OK to be different.
That to not be the perfect teen or have the perfect life is normal.
And that when you fuck up you have to learn from your mistakes and find a way, if necessary, to make amends.
Critics will no doubt argue that the film skirts around the very real issue of the gay suicide, for despite a short passage where Simon’s world comes crashing down, there isn’t anything of the very real and sometimes crushing pressure gay teens must manage during the often difficult pre and post coming out period of their lives.
They will also no doubt cringe at the sappy ending (but sweet, you can’t deny it, which takes away some of the power of the film’s broader messages.
Can’t disagree with this, but would counter that ultimately this is a film and thus there is the artistic license to take it where it will, with the added rider that it’s more than OK for there to be gay rom-coms with happy endings.
The film isn’t perfect. It’s not going to win any awards. It has its flaws (for example, Robinson not always able to carry off the seventeen-year-old he is meant to be), and ultimately, like any film of any kind, “Love, Simon” is not going to appeal to everyone who sees it.
But I hope that even those who are disappointed with what the film could have been still walk away acknowledging the broader shift the film represents — that gay stories are now everyone’s stories, and that Hollywood is allowed to tell them, and should do it more often.
The three things I loved:
- The humour — from the “coming out as straight” imaginary scene, amongst others, to the completely left-of-centre unexpected wonderful silliness brought to the film by Veep’s Tony Hale and Natasha Rothwell.
- The nod to John Hughes— something about the pure construction and delivery of the film makes you walk away feeling that if Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club had been made thirty years later, there would have no doubt been a gay character in them.
- The prevalence of social media and how it is now a 3rd limb to most teens (most of us more generally!) and can’t be ignored when telling any kind of story