Representation matters. Romantic comedies and coming of age films have always both been genres dominated by the antics and conquests of straight characters and relationships. With “Love, Simon,” the first film centering on a gay teenager released by the major studio Twentieth Century Fox, it is a new and invigorating take on those genres.
The movie follows Simon Spier, a 17-year-old-year senior in high school struggling to reveal his sexuality to his family and friends. He begins emailing Blue, an anonymous, closeted student at his high school. As their online relationship grows, Simon has to come to terms with who he is and contemplates his willingness to hear his loved ones’ reactions.
The film is anchored by amazing performances all around. Nick Robinson as the lead is winsome and captivating. He does a great job portraying this character in all of his flaws and desires, as well as being the audience’s gateway into this experience. While he has been in many films before, this movie solidifies him as a star, lighting the screen with a charismatic performance that is transcendent.
His supporting cast of friends, played by Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr., have natural performances elevated by great writing. They accurately portray real teenagers and not caricatures from the perspective of older people who try to capture what teenage essence is. Their dialogue is poignant and the jokes hit really well, not coming off as forced or sterile.
Jennifer Garner in the role of Simon’s mother was also a really inspired casting choice. From the smallest glances at him to a poignant speech she gives him toward the end, the caring and tender love she feels for her son is palpable.
The journey and progression of Simon’s character in the script is enthralling. Viewers can easily empathize with him, as he goes on a transformative journey to become the person he’s tried so hard to keep hidden. The film is part love story, part personal acceptance journey. It inhabits both these story points very well. Simon’s journey as a gay character cannot be separated from his journey as a young person searching for first love and movie goers get to experience both. There is emotional resonance in this story that has been scarce in mainstream movie history and has been a long time coming.
With “Sixteen Candles,” “Pretty in Pink” and “The Breakfast Club,” John Hughes defined a generation, gifting them with iconic cinematic moments that defined young adult romance. With “Love, Simon,” a new generation of LGBTQ moviegoers is being given a movie that finally shows them they also have a claim to a great love story.