Love, Simon (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): Conventional but Notable

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“Love, Simon” reminds me again of how things have been changed a lot for queer films these days. After the considerable success of “Brokeback Mountain” (2005), LGBTQ characters have become more common in American films during recent years, and now we come to have a mainstream adolescent comedy drama film which is quite comfortable with its young gay hero from the beginning. While it is often conventional to the core, the movie is funny, sweet, and poignant thanks to its thoughtful storytelling and likable performances, and I found myself touched at times during my viewing as reflecting on my own personal experience.

During the opening sequence, we get to know a bit about Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a 17-year-old high school kid who has been hiding his homosexuality from others around him for several years. He surely wants to come out of the closet someday, but he is still not sure about when he should reveal his homosexuality to his family and his close school friends, and he is afraid of what may possibly happen once he comes out. As a gay man who quietly suppressed his sexuality for more than 20 years, I certainly understand how he feels; like him, I was also quite afraid, so I chose to turn a blind eye on my homosexuality as focusing more on study, books, and movies – until I decided to come out of the closet two years ago.

On one day, there comes a small but significant change into Simon’s life. Leah (Katherine Langford), one of his close friends, notifies him that an anonymous gay student of their school posted a personal online confession under the pseudonym ‘Blue’, and Simon becomes interested in getting closer to Blue after reading his personal online confession. He sends an email to Blue while using pseudonym ‘Jacques’, and they soon come to correspond with each other frequently as confiding many things to each other.

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While wondering about the real identity of Blue, Simon comes to feel more attraction toward Blue, but then, unfortunately, he happens to get himself into a serious trouble. Martin (Logan Miller), a student who participates in a musical class Simon attends, comes to learn of the correspondence between Simon and Blue by accident, and he threatens to Simon that he is going to expose Simon’s homosexuality unless Simon helps him win the heart of Abby (Alexandra Shipp), one of Simon’s close friends who has incidentally been attending the musical class along with Simon and Martin.

Because he is still afraid of being exposed as a gay, Simon has no choice but to help Martin. Although it is apparent that Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), who is another close friend of his, has had a crush on Abby, Simon deliberately blocks Nick’s approach to her while indirectly leading him to Leah instead, and he also tries to set up several suitable moments for Martin to approach closer to Abby, though she is not so impressed by Martin’s goofy demonstrations of his affection toward her.

As things become more complicated than expected, Simon continues to be conflicted about coming out of the closet. While his parents Jack (Josh Duhamel) and Emily (Jennifer Garner) are kind, generous, and open-minded, his younger sister Nora (Talitha Bateman) is your average sweet little sister, but he fears that his family will not accept his homosexuality, and we get an amusing montage sequence as he ponders on the fact that his heterosexual friends do not need to express their sexuality directly to their parents at all in contrast to him.

Meanwhile, he keeps wondering about who Blue actually is. There are several potential candidates in the school, but there is no definite clue, and he only finds himself having more romantic feeling than before. Although it will probably be pretty easy for you to guess the identity of his object of affection, the movie has some fun as playing with his expectation and ours, and that certainly provides extra amusement for us.

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Eventually, there comes an inevitable moment of disclosure later in the film (is this a spoiler?), but the movie wisely avoids unnecessary melodrama while becoming as serious as required, and the adapted screenplay Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, which is based on “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” written by Becky Albertalli, often surprises us as having many of its archetype characters show more human depth than expected. Although he is sometimes quite self-centered and insufferable, Martin is sincere in his courtship to Abby, and you may feel a little sorry for him when he comes to embarrass himself in front of Abby and many other students at one point. In case of an openly gay student character in the film, he looks like a caricature at first, but then there is a brief but touching moment when he and Simon happen to have a frank conversation on being gay.

Under director Greg Berlanti’s good direction, his main cast members bring life and personality to their respective roles. While Nick Robinson, who previously appeared in “The Kings of Summer” (2013) and “Jurassic World” (2015), diligently holds the center with his unadorned performance, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Clark Moore, and Logan Miller are solid in their respective roles, and the same thing can be said about Talitha Bateman, Tony Hale, Josh Duhamel, and Jennifer Garner, who has her own small moment when her character has an honest talk with her son around the finale.

“Love, Simon” is not exactly as groundbreaking as “Brokeback Mountain”, but it is undeniable that the movei brings some fresh air of diversity to its genre territory like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018), and I really appreciate its optimistic spirit. Yes, it is still hard and difficult for many LGBTQ kids out there (Remember that recent tragic incident of a 9-year-old gay boy who was bullied by his schoolmates after coming out to them and then killed himself?), but I sincerely hope many more mainstream queer movies like this will help them be more confident and positive about themselves.

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