I don’t think anyone will have any qualms in me saying that the LGBT community is one of the most vastly underrepresented parts of society when it comes to mainstream Hollywood movies.
Sure, we’ve had indie hits like Call Me by Your Name and Moonlight that have also performed well at the Oscars, but the closest we’ve ever gotten to a mass-market crowd pleaser has been Ang Lee’s 2005 flick Brokeback Mountain and if we’re being honest, that wasn’t marketed in a way that made it particularly mainstream.
Aiming to change all that is Love, Simon. Based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is the first truly mainstream rom-com that features a lead gay character. But is the film a beacon of hope for a massively underrepresented LGBT community or a movie that daren’t go too far?
Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), it’s a little more complicated. He hasn’t told his family or friends that he’s gay, and he doesn’t know the identity of the anonymous classmate that he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing.
Love, Simon is one of the most important films in a generation. Aiming to please both everyday movie-goers and be sensitive to the issues that gay people face on a daily basis, it needs to tread a very careful line, and I’m pleased to say, it does so beautifully. From the exceptional performances of the entire cast, to the warming attempts at humour, it succeeds on almost every level.
Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson is outstanding as Simon. A 17-year-old who consistently struggles to accept who he truly is would be an incredibly difficult role for even the most seasoned actors to take on, but he really is wonderful to watch. As we journey across his troubled story, the audience feels fully immersed in his actions, even those that are, shall we say, questionable.
The supporting cast too, is excellent. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are a great, if slightly underused presence, as Simon’s parents and along with his sister Nora (played by Talitha Bateman), they make an entirely believable family unit and it’s lovely to see them rallying around him when the inevitable ‘outing’ occurs. One touching scene in particular featuring Garner speaking to her son is sure to turn on the waterworks for many.
Director Greg Berlanti is a relative newcomer to the world of romantic comedy, but he leads with a confidence that makes him appear seasoned at this game. Touching scenes of emotion are nicely interspersed with sequences of genuinely funny comedy – the sign of a great rom-com. Special mention must go to Natasha Rothwell as drama teacher Ms. Albright, who manages to garner most of the laughs throughout. All of this culminates in a sweet finale that ties together everything that’s happened over the previous 110 minutes very well indeed.
If we’re to look at some of the flaws then it’s fair to say that the story outside of it featuring a gay lead is completely unoriginal. It’s been done before, but that’s kind of its charm. Flipping the classic rom-com story on its head by allowing audiences across the world to see that being gay really isn’t easy is a really nice thing to see.
In a nutshell, Love, Simon is a film with a massive heart anchored by a beautifully raw performance by Nick Robinson. It’ll make you laugh and it’ll make you cry, but this is a touching romantic comedy that will absolutely go down in the history books of film. Like Brokeback Mountain did for the older gay man, Love, Simon can be a shining light for young men who are struggling to accept who they truly are.