There’s plenty to love about Love, Simon. It’s a charming romantic dramedy about a cool high school senior who has an awesome family, a great circle of friends, and one big secret: he’s gay. This isn’t some small indie drama that weighs heavy on the soul. It’s a sweet, lighthearted, relatable coming-of-age and coming-out story that plays a lot like a typical John Hughes teen ensemble movie updated for the times, where snapchat, texting and online forums are a primary means of communication. It’s backed by a major studio (20th Century Fox) so it actually has a fighting chance to reach a wide, mainstream audience – as it should.
Here’s the gist: Simon (Nick Robinson, The Kings of Summer, Everything, Everything) falls for a gay classmate that he’s been exchanging anonymous emails with. They don’t know each other’s true identities but they share a common bond and come to rely on each other for support. Their timeline for a potential, eventual meet-cute gets derailed when an obnoxious classmate (Logan Miller) discovers Simon’s secret and threatens to expose him – unless Simon helps him hook up with one of his attractive gal-pals. Rather than come clean to his friends and family, Simon succumbs to the blackmail and makes some stupid decisions that threaten to undermine his relationships with his besties (played by Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). All the while, he’s trying to figure out who his anonymous pen-pal may be. When Simon does open up to his folks (Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel), they prove to be the coolest, most understanding parents ever – with reactions that are both tissue and applause-worthy (seriously – I attended a screening with a bunch of teens and young adults who sniffed and cheered their way through several scenes.)
Love, Simon has a strong supporting cast and plenty of comedic moments, provided in part by Tony Hale as the too-cool-for-school assistant Vice Principal, and Natasha Rothwell as the spunky, sarcastic drama teacher leading a group of talent-challenged students in a production of ‘Cabaret’. The film is directed by Greg Berlanti who’s made a career out of appealing to the YA crowd with TV shows like Riverdale, The Flash, and Supergirl. He also directed Duhamel (and Katherine Heigl) in the 2010 romantic dramedy Life As We Know It. Berlanti found himself some solid material to work with in the Love, Simon screenplay, based on the YA novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli. Love, Simon is an entertaining PG-13 film that is designed to be more mainstream accessible than a Call Me By Your Name or Moonlight – though all share a heartfelt, poignant message about issues of sexual identity and acceptance.