Film Review: ‘Love, Simon’ aims for the heart and succeeds

Love, Simon
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

“Love, Simon” follows the story of Simon Spiers (Nick Robinson). He’s your average 17-year-old trying to navigate his way through high school, but he lives with a “huge-ass secret” — he’s never revealed to anyone that he’s gay. When someone who goes by the name “Blue” posts an online confession that he is gay, Simon reaches out to him via email. They form a connection, and Simon tries to figure out which of his classmates this is while slowly embracing his own sexuality.

Greg Berlanti, best known as the executive producer for a number of CW TV shows like “The Flash” and “Riverdale” makes his theatrical directorial debut with “Love, Simon.” Berlanti is no stranger to the coming-of-age rom-com genre. It’s clear he poured a lot of heart into the making of this film, and the result did not disappoint. Many have pointed out comparisons between “Love, Simon” and the works of John Hughes, but rather than completely recycling the stories we’re used to seeing, Berlanti offers a fresh take on the well-trodden genre that hits on a very human level.

Robinson is a charming and sympathetic lead who captures Simon’s awkwardness and vulnerability. He really is the center of the film — sometimes at the expense of others, but I’ll get to that — and he proves he’s got the comedic and dramatic chops for the role.

Robinson is surrounded by a talented supporting cast that includes Katherine Langford as Simon’s best friend Leah, Jennifer Garner as Simon’s mom, Josh Duhamel as Simon’s dad and Alexandra Shipp as Simon’s friend Abby. Garner stood out in particular as Simon’s mother; while she doesn’t get nearly enough screen time, she shoulders a lot of the emotional weight of the film and has one scene in particular that could bring a few audience members to tears. Shipp also shines as Abby, who becomes something of an emotional support for Simon.

This is Simon’s story, but because Berlanti focuses on him, he spends less time developing other characters. I thought Langford was underutilized as Leah, not only because she’s a huge talent, but because she is supposed to be Simon’s closest friend, and we end up knowing very little about her. Simon also spends much of the film trying to figure out the identity of his love interest, Blue, and without giving anything away, I wish we had gotten more time with the character who ends up being Blue. I get that it’s supposed to be a mystery, and we’re really only limited to what Simon knows or doesn’t know, but Blue is such a central part of the film, so it would be nice to have the time to invest in him more.

The other main issue I had concerns a character who discovers Simon’s emails with Blue, and blackmails him for it. He’s a generally unlikeable character, and I didn’t think there were enough repercussions for what he does to Simon. There also seemed to be some tonal inconsistencies surrounding these events, and I also didn’t fully buy into some of the character reactions here either.

This film is one that very much wears its heart on its sleeve. Sometimes it’s a bit uneven, but it’s so endearing that this doesn’t really matter. The humor works well, and so do the emotional beats. I appreciated how honest and genuine it felt, not only with Simon’s personal struggles, but with its coming-of-age themes. It is a love story about a gay teenager, offering a refreshing and much-needed film that boasts inclusivity and representation. At the same time, it’s also a story about accepting yourself and others, especially as you grow up. Those themes are universal and real, no matter who you are or who you love. Through Berlanti’s careful direction, a charming script and Robinson’s sensitive performance, “Love, Simon” is a fun and heartfelt watch.


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