You don’t have to wait very long to figure out the plot device that makes this amiable little film tick. It’s revealed, in voiceover, by the protagonist, in the opening moments. No, that’s not quite right. It’s hinted at, but not actually stated, in the voiceover, but at the same time, revealed in a visual.
The narration is courtesy of high school senior Simon Spier (Nick Robinson, most recently seen as Olly, the boy next door in “Everything, Everything”). He says, to himself and the viewers, “For the most part, my life is totally normal.” There’s a pause for effect, then he adds, “But I have one huge secret.” That second part is said as he’s longingly staring out his bedroom window at the hunky gardener down below.
At that point, it’s only Simon and everyone watching in the theater, that know he’s gay. His parents and his little sister don’t have a clue. It’s never been brought up in conversations between him and his school pals Leah (Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), and Abby (Alexandra Shipp). He’s been holding in that bit of information for a long time, and now he wants to come out, or at least find someone he can share his feelings with.
The good news about “Love, Simon” is that the issue is taken seriously and respectfully, but this is for the most part a lighthearted, sweet and funny film. There’s no hitting us over the head with the politics of being gay; it’s a story that comes from the standpoint of human feelings.
It also has a measure of hipness. Can you think of another film that’s featured a lyric from a Kinks song (in this case “Waterloo Sunset”) that becomes a character’s name? No, don’t even try. But it happens here when Simon finds someone online — a similarly lonely fellow who’s ready to come out, attends the same school as Simon, and goes by the moniker Blue. Simon, ready to fall head-over-heels for this mystery guy, quickly takes on that Kinks name (he signs his text “From My Window”) but soon changes it to Jacques.
Most of what happens for the rest of the film revolves around the question of Blue’s identity. Simon wonders about that so much, his imagination goes into high gear. We see someone, in Simon’s head, typing away at a keyboard, in electronic conversation with Simon, but the camera angles are such that we can’t clearly see his face. This kind of thing later, in a smile-inducing scene, blossoms into the fact that Simon has an active, choreographed, color-coordinated imagination.
But not everything here is strife-free. Martin (Logan Miller), a goofy and obnoxious acquaintance of Simon’s, finds out about his secret, and cruelly threatens to out him unless Simon fixes him up with his friend Abby. Simon, up against a wall in that blackmail scheme and still trying to find true love, turns inconsiderate and selfish when it comes to the feelings of his closest friends.
Still, the film remains upbeat and, at times close to hilarious, especially in a few of the school scenes. Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell, milking it for laughs) is the beleaguered teacher trying to get through the stress of directing talentless kids in a production of “Cabaret.” Vice Principal Worth (Tom Hale) gets bigger laughs for his over-the-top delivery of the script’s best bits of eccentricity. There’s also a helping of warmth and compassion — along with that humor — from Simon’s parents (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner) in the home scenes.
But the abundance of charm to be found here is due to Nick Robinson, who is not only relaxed and comfortable in the part, he’s also able to fill it with an air of honesty and lots of believable emotion, easily moving between happiness and heartbreak, then back again. If you’re concerned over whether we find out the identity of Blue, stop worrying. All you have to do is stay till the end.
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker; directed by Greg Berlanti
With Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner