Love, Simon is being heralded in the press as groundbreaking, taboo shattering and an absolute triumph. The initial trailers did seem promising; a refreshing perspective on the high school experience of a “closeted” gay teen. It is, of course, the first film from a major Hollywood studio to feature a gay protagonist and it’s even said to have helped several young people – including some of the cast – finally come out to their peers and family. It had all the hallmarks of being something truly inspirational and endearing.
Sadly, this was not the case. It felt much, much longer than the 110 minutes run time and it was littered with all of the clichés that I had hoped it would have avoided. I didn’t find it to be an authentic experience; more of a stereotype of what an adult thinks an authentic high school experience is. Maybe it was just me – maybe I’m disconnected from the youth of today or what life in the American education system is like. But, despite my high hopes, Love, Simon just didn’t do it for me.
The film charts the experience of Simon (Nick Robinson), who starts an email relationship with a nameless closeted gay man at his high school. He’s terrified of being “outed” and finds himself falling deeply in love with someone who’s name he doesn’t know.
For me, the film was tonally all over the place. It wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a truly serious, landmark teen drama; a high school comedy; a celebration of the LGBTQI community. There were huge, glaring stereotypes in terms of the characterisation and “plot twists” that you could see coming a mile off. For example, the over-sharing high school principal, played by Tony Hale, absolutely made my skin crawl. There was the sassy gay kid who was out and proud. Simon’s mum is a therapist who is trying to take down the patriarchy.
The character of Martin (Logan Miller) proved to be the biggest conundrum. The whole the way through the film, the dialogue is polarising that it’s not clear if you’re supposed to like him or despise him. He’s odious enough to blackmail a closested gay man, but you’re also led to believe that he’s just trying to find love. He’s so conflicting that I just wanted his scenes to end quickly.
Simon’s group of friends (including 13 Reasons Why’s Katherine Langford) are so caught up in their own selfishness that they get angry at him for being blackmailed because it messed up their potential dating lives. It’s just awful. His dad (Josh Duhamel, strangely doing a really good job) is the “lesson point” of the film. He makes mild gay slurs to his son early on in the film because he doesn’t know any better! As soon as he learns his son is gay, he asks what girl turned him because he doesn’t know any better! It’s so forced – look at these adults who need educating – it’s cringe worthy.
That being said, there were a couple of scenes in the film that I really enjoyed. The issue of “coming out as straight” to your parents was really funny – and is genuinely true. No one feels the need to announce that they are heterosexual or fears being “outed” as straight so it highlighted the different experience and pressures that the LGBTQI community experiences. The song and dance sequence wherein Simon imagines his carefree college life as a contented gay man also made me smile.
Love, Simon suffers from a lot of obvious stereotypes and a plot that is drawn out over the run time. It could have been really charming, sweet and interesting. There is no doubt that the storyline itself is certainly a cinematic landmark but it ultimately fell victim to the clichés and tropes that I’m sure it was hoping to avoid.