The film brings fresh perspective to the genre by focusing on an experience unseen in coming-of-age tales: What high-school first love might be like if you’re gay. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
Some things are universal about being a teenager: the budding sexuality and sense of identity, the dramatic emotions, the profound need for acceptance and confusing inklings of first love.
Countless movies (and books and songs and TV shows) plumb the agony and elation of teen romance, but “Love, Simon” brings fresh perspective to the genre by focusing on an experience unseen in coming-of-age tales: What high-school first love might be like if you’re gay.
This film treats 17-year-old Simon Spier’s quest for love and self-acceptance with the tender, timeless, Hollywood touch of John Hughes: It’s a classic story of a first crush made groundbreaking by centering on a closeted gay kid.
Nick Robinson is Simon, a high-school senior who describes his life as “totally normal.” He has a loving family and the same clutch group of friends for years. Simon is gay — he’s known ever since a recurring adolescent dream about Daniel Radcliffe — but has kept his sexuality a secret from everyone.
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He finally finds an outlet after an anonymous post on the school’s online gossip forum. A student calling himself Blue confesses that he’s gay but hasn’t told anyone, and Simon writes to him, using a pseudonym. They begin an anonymous pen-pal friendship that turns into a deep connection.
He keeps all this from his friends, who are drawn in classic Hughes tradition: There’s awkward, self-conscious Leah (Katherine Langford), who’s been crushing on Simon since they were kids; Abby (Alexandra Shipp), the transfer student and hottest girl in school; and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), a nice-guy athlete who serves as Simon’s heterosexual foil. All the other archetypes are here, too: the bullies, jocks, popular kids, wacky administrator and no-nonsense drama teacher.
Simon’s life starts to unravel when the school’s class clown, Martin (Logan Miller), finds his secret emails. Dramatic social chaos ensues for everyone.
“Love, Simon” is a universal story, even if you’re not a gay teenager. As Simon so aptly says: “No matter what, announcing who you are to the world is pretty terrifying.”
★★★½ “Love, Simon,” with Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. Directed by Greg Berlanti, from a screenplay by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, based on a novel by Becky Albertalli. 110 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual references, language and teen partying. Several theaters.