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Review: “Love, Simon”: Sweet, Genuine and Charming

Ever since I caught the posters for the movie, I’ve wanted to see “Love, Simon.” It looked like a fun, teenage romantic comedy with interesting characters. The trailer completely won me over and I counted the days until it arrived. I was not disappointed. It is sweet, heartfelt and completely what I hoped it would be.

Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) has a completely ordinary life. He has disgustingly loving parents, Emily (Jennifer Garner) and Jack (Josh Dushamel), he actually likes his kid sister, Nora (Talitha Bateman) who wants to be a cook, and he has great friends, Leah Burke (Katherine Langford), Nick Eisner (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) both of whom he’s known since he was little and their new friend, Abby Suso (Alexandra Shipp) whose newly moved to their town. The only problem, he has a secret, he’s gay.

He begins connecting with another gay student online via email, knowing him only as Blue. Unfortunately, the email exchange is discovered by another student, Martin Addison (Logan Miller) who blackmails Simon into helping him connect with Abby, who he wants to date. Simon has to balance out figuring out how to help Martin while struggling with keeping his friends and family from finding out his secret all while he tries to find out who Blue is, speculating whether it is Nick’s soccer teammate, Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale), the waiter at Waffle House Lyle (Joey Pollari), or drama club pianist Cal (Miles Heizer). But will Simon figure out who it is he’s falling in love with before Martin tells everyone his secret?

      

Directed by Greg Berlanti and written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, the film develops this romantic comedy in a genuine, heartfelt way, infusing it with sincerity, teenage awkwardness, and charm. It very much follows the traditional path of a romantic film, giving it much the vibe of a John Hughes movie, like Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink but with nontraditional characters. I personally loved that feel to the movie, that familiar type of story but with characters full of personality and genuine emotion. The story kept me engaged but the characters made me fall in love. 

The best part of that element is how completely awkward and charming Simon is, trying to figure out who he is and how to make his choices. His connection with Blue is so compelling because it taps into universal desires, to connect with someone, to fall in love and as the movie says, everyone deserves a love story. That quality is what makes Simon so engaging as he falls in love via computer but then has to figure out how to get out of the mess he’s in. Nick Robinson give him subtle emotion, that feeling of being closed off without leaving me disconnected from the character. He infuses his character with likeability, especially as he does get to know Blue.

Not only is Simon sweet but the secondary characters in this film shine. I totally related to his parents, both played to great effect by Josh Dushamel and Jennifer Garner. While his father teases Simon about who he likes, without knowing his son’s secret, there is warmth and love behind every moment on screen. You can see even in the beginning that Simon’s choice to keep his secret is not because his parents would not love him. 

His friends also stand out, Nick and Abby revolving around each other until their relationship is disrupted by Martin and Simon. Logan Miller does an especially standout job as Martin, equal parts true to himself and jerk to Simon, as he fails to understand how much he takes Simon’s choices away until it all blows up.  Logan does a fantastic job of making Martin likeable, even as he’s blackmailing Simon. 

Among the other characters in the film are both Tony Hale as Simon’s vice principle and Natasha Rothwell as Ms. Albright, Simon’s drama teacher. Both are hilarious, even in short moments on screen and Natasha has some great dialogue, sarcastic and truthful as she leads her students in their performance of Cabaret. She was one of my favorite characters.

The film is insightful, offering moments when it shows us how important it is to be true to oneself, that holding back parts of yourself is like holding your breath. Given Greg Berlanti as a director, I’m not surprised. Those moments of insight build a film that gives us more than charm. None of the characters are stereotypes. Even Martin is real and has moments of complete sincerity, at one point telling Simon he doesn’t want to be changed, he wants Abby to like him for himself. I think in life all of us want that and that truth is what makes this film so beautiful.

As I said, it does follow the traditional love story, right down to the romantic ending. That predictability might win you over but does mean that some parts of the story you can predict. What it does well, though, is to keep you guessing as to who Blue’s identity is right until the very end of the movie. There are also predictable characters, such as the two school bullies, who are those “jerks.” Given that most of us have dealt with guys like this in high school, they are perfect in their part but the only characters that felt a touch stereotypical.

Still, this movie gives you a touching romance with authentic characters. If you grew up on John Hughes movies, you will love this film. What is best about it is that it shows everyone deserves a love story. I loved each and every character, the humor and the acting. It’s not unusual but it is exactly what everyone desires to have, connection and love.

Rating: 4 out of 5 secrets

Watch the trailer Love, Simon

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