Ben’s “Gay” Breakdown | “Love, Simon”
As part of my movie watching for TGGeeks I’ve decided to take a look at movies for the LGBTQ community that have probably flown under most people’s radar, and… Oh whom am I kidding??? This movie is no small potatoes, it sort of took mainstream cinema by storm, and it’s the young adult, romantic comedy, Love, Simon.
Simon Spier is a senior in high school, and his life looks pretty cool. He has incredible parents who love him (beautifully played by Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner), a younger sister that he gets along with pretty well (Talitha Bateman), and some amazing friends… and he also has one killer secret that is about to make him explode from the inside out.
Do I need to say anymore?
Love, Simon is one of those movies that hit me so squarely in the gut that trying to write an analytical review is practically next to impossible. Having lived in the closet during my high school years was sheer torture for me. My world was completely different than the one that Simon is living in. Yes there are the tormentors in Simon’s school, just as there were in mine, but the social climate of Simon’s time is still one of more acceptance than when I went to school. And yet, none of that matters.
For all intents and purposes, this is practically a first person movie. Almost every scene has Simon in it, taking the viewer alongside as the silent observer. We peek inside Simon’s mind constantly, from the fantasies about being openly gay in college, to projecting the identity of the mysterious “Blue” Simon has been corresponding with. We’re there when he makes bad judgment calls out of fear for being exposed as gay, and we’re there when those bad decisions come home to roost and practically destroy this fragile part of his life. This is where the talents of Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (writers of the screenplay) shine. They have crafted a story that quite literally nails the behavior of high school teenagers. Couple that with the incredible acting of this cast, especially that of star Nick Robinson, and this movie did something that I did not think possible. I found myself to be 18 years old again, a senior in high school, and having my heart broken in a way that felt like my world was ending (which did happen to me). I could go over the dangers of being in the closet and how it can mess with your thinking and cause one to do some pretty stupid and embarrassing things, but that type of analysis is for adults. Simon is still just a kid. He’s a smart kid in terms of intelligence, but when matters of the heart start to mess around with his thinking we end up seeing him do what so many teenagers do when they’re in love. They’ll pretty much say and do anything necessary to preserve that shining hope for love, romance, and happiness. Watching Simon say all types of rubbish, purely with the intent of keeping not only his sexuality a secret, but also that of “Blue,” had me reliving some of the horrible things I did out of fear of losing that one other student that I was wildly crushing on. Forget the fact that (in my case) he was straight. I couldn’t bear the idea of losing him to someone else, so I found myself saying some pretty idiotic things, just as Simon does here. Then there is the fallout from that, and we see his friends behave precisely as teenagers would behave, and it was something that I also saw happen to me when I was 18. Finally, when “Blue” chooses to end his e-mail relationship with Simon we see how it literally breaks his heart. Robinson’s conviction to this scene was so profound that I could pretty much see my own hurt reflected in Simon’s eyes. The empathy that the writing and acting created was so strong that I actually ended up crying.
Luckily this is a positive movie (at times it almost felt as if famed 80’s teen friendly director John Hughes had made this), which means there is a happy ending. Because this is a movie about teenagers, director Greg Berlanti kept the tone of the movie just right so that the resolution, when it finally comes about, keeps the viewer fully engaged and invested. When Simon finally has his moment of happiness and see his classmates cheer him on, I found myself cheering him on too.
I believe that this is the true message of this movie. We all remember how emotionally traumatic our time in high school was from time to time. It’s a period of emotional, psychological, and even sexual, awakening. We’re now feeling emotions that are not only new to us, but they are at times completely overwhelming. We remember girls having their hearts broken when the male students don’t return their affections, or vice versa. We remember the stupid choices we made all because we couldn’t get a grasp on these overpowering emotions we are now feeling. We’ve all been there. It doesn’t matter what your attractions or leanings are. Feelings are feelings. Just because I was madly in love with another boy in school does not discount the same feelings a girl might have had for another boy. While certain specifics might be different, the essence of these emotions comes from the same place. These types of feelings and behaviors have more in common than not. I believe that to be the message here. Regardless of who you are, especially of whom you were at that same tender age as Simon, you are entitled to the same type of happiness as anyone else (Okay, maybe not EVERYBODY, but for the sake of this review we won’t go down those specific rabbit holes.). Even after an embarrassing moment when he’s exposed as gay, he finally musters up the needed strength and reclaims his life and heart. He basically becomes his own man, and is prepared to take the necessary risk of being hurt because he also realizes that he’s deserving of that same happiness. The fact that he’s gay is literally irrelevant. He deserves his shot at being happy and in love.
If there was ever a movie that spoke to true equality of the heart, it is Love, Simon.