Updated: Feb 6, 2020
Love, Simon is a funny and charming teen dramedy that starts off looking like just another movie about high schoolers before turning into an honest, touching and extremely lovable film. It transcends the clichés in a feel good story about as likable a cast of characters as you can find in any high school film.
Simon (Nick Robinson) is a high school senior with a secret. He is gay. He has not told anyone. Not his parents, psychologist Emily (Jennifer Garner) and former jock Jack (Josh Duhamel, currently starring on the USA series Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.). Not aspiring chef sister, Nora (Talitha Bateman). And not his best friends, Leah (Katherine Langford, from the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and Abby (Alexandra Shipp, young Storm in the ongoing X-Men films). One day, someone calling themselves Blue posts a letter on the school’s gossipy message board, coming out of the closet. Inspired, Simon writes an anonymous email to Blue, starting a relationship that changes his life.
The biggest asset this film has in its favor is the screenplay by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (a writing team for TV shows such as This Is Us), based on the 2015 novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli. Simon’s struggle is dealt with subtly and respectfully. There is absolutely no sensationalism or exploitation. He seems like a real person instead of just a movie character and I really cared about him. The way he deals with his problems feels realistic, even if parts of the setup are somewhat sitcom-ish.
The first twenty minutes or so (of its 106 minute running time, not including the end credits) are pretty routine and I was a little disappointed by the way Love, Simon was setting its plot in motion. But, somewhere along the way, I got so caught up in the story and characters that I did not care anymore. I wanted everything to turn out okay for Simon so, even though the ending is maybe a little bit too convenient, I did not care. The characters and their world were so well realized that the story made me want to see the ending it was headed for.
The second most important thing Love, Simon has going for it is its cast. Nick Robinson is charming and likable as Simon. He seems like a good person even when he is acting selfishly. He is smart, shy and scared of his life being turned upside down if anyone finds out that he is gay. Robinson slides into the role well and never turns Simon into a caricature. As his parents, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel provide very solid support without getting in the way. Both of those characters are a little more than their descriptions would suggest. The interplay between family members is very efficiently established and they both get some nice moments with their son.
Simon’s high school contributes a bunch of good supporting characters. His friends seem like real teenagers. They love Simon, but are so caught up in their own lives that they do not notice anything different with their friend. Then, there is lonely Martin (Logan Miller), who requires Simon’s help for his own problems. I did not particularly like this subplot, though the film handles it well enough. And Miller is pretty funny in the role. There is also overly friendly Vice Principal Mr. Worth (played by the always welcome Tony Hale, from Arrested Development and Veep) and exasperated play director Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell, from HBO’s Insecure), who gets the biggest laughs in the movie. They come in, do their thing and provide some welcome comedy. This way, Simon’s story can be treated seriously without the film becoming overly melodramatic.
Love, Simon is a wonderful feel-good movie. It is funny and touching and never treats its protagonist’s homosexuality as a plot device. It steps right so often, and sidesteps so many clichés, that its shaky start becomes easy to forgive. It is a rare thing: a movie about and for teenagers that never condescends. It treats them with care and respect. It is not just a good film for its target audience. It is a really, really good movie, period.
4¼ out of 5
Nick Robinson as Simon
Jennifer Garner as Emily
Josh Duhamel as Jack
Katherine Langford as Leah
Alexandra Shipp as Abby
Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Nick
Logan Miller as Martin
Keiynan Lonsdale as Bram
Talitha Bateman as Nora
Tony Hale as Mr. Worth
Natasha Rothwell as Ms. Albright
Directed by Greg Berlanti
Screenplay by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker