Just three months into 2018, Hollywood has offered a trilogy of films that mark the myriad of social changes on the horizon. Black Panther has become a worldwide phenomenon, mainstreaming the phrase “Afrofuturism.” A Wrinkle in Time offers a cast of every color of people with a strong message for kids to celebrate all of the qualities that make them unique. And now Love, Simon offers a John Hughes style teen comedy that is as touching as it is funny, about a teenager who struggles with coming out of the closet.
When a student at Simon’s high school posts on the school’s social board that he is secretly gay, Simon starts an email conversation with the mysterious “Blue,” the only person he feels he can share his secret with; that he is also gay. When another student finds Simon’s emails on the library computer, Simon becomes the target of blackmail. His fear of being discovered fast tracks his need to come out to his family and friends before his secret is leaked, and his need to find out who “Blue” is only intensifies as his secret gets closer to being exposed.
Love, Simon perfectly encapsulates the fear, anxiety, and dread that comes with discovering that you’re different and that the most important people in your life might not accept you for who you are. Anyone who has made a similar journey will likely see themselves in Simon, who loves music like The Kinks, is a big fan of Harry Potter (Go Hufflepuff!) and whose natural tastes don’t necessarily conform to what we typically think of as gay culture. One of the film’s most comedic moments, used in the marketing campaign, features Simon trying to imagine himself out in college, joining in a choreographed dance to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” which is not who he is.
The typical bullying that comes with being gay in high school is part of the story, with Simon’s school containing one out and proud student who he doesn’t identify with due to drastically different tastes. Watching his peer be ridiculed and mocked daily serves to intensify the fear associated with being his true self and underscores one of the many reasons why this film is so necessary. These moments should be all too familiar to anyone whose ever gone to high school, past or present, and the film makes a great statement about how to stand up to bullies.
The film is full of humor and heart, harkening back to the tone of some of the most beloved teen romcoms of all time like Sixteen Candles, Clueless, and Mean Girls. The biggest laughs come from two of the adults at Simon’s school, primarily his drama teacher, Natasha Rothwell, who tells a student that they’re the reason she’s having her tubes tied. Tony Hale of Veep and Arrested Development fame plays the Vice Principle, constantly butting into his student’s personal lives.
Seeing Love, Simon proved to be a very healing experience. Jennifer Garner as Simon’s mom delivers a speech that is a shining example of how parents can console and guide their kids after they come out. To be honest, this is an award-worthy performance. All of the awards next season to Jennifer Garner, okay? Josh Duhamel as Simon’s father will also help parents feel less guilty for things they may have said around their kids in the past to further cause them anxiety and fear of coming out.
Nick Robinson offers a career-defining role as Simon. My experience with his work was limited to a DCOM (Frenemies) and watching him try to not become a dino snack in Jurassic World. Like Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Robinson’s turn as Simon Spier is likely to be a touchstone of his career.
Why is Love, Simon so different from other LGBT films that came before it? For one, it’s a mainstream film with a nationwide release that doesn’t require Oscar buzz to get there. While the story deals with a sexual awakening, it’s refreshing that it doesn’t contain any sex. The story is about love and companionship, whereas so many films that cross into this genre contain at least one scene where the main character bumps uglies with a love interest, which makes it inaccessible to young viewers. I was surprised by the diversity of the audience attending the film, ranging from groups of teenage girls to full families to elderly couples. This really is a film for everybody.
Filmmakers have been working hard to provide a seat at the table for everyone, creating inclusive storytelling that will define this moment in history. 2018 is finally bringing this to light, with Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time from Disney and now Love, Simon from Fox. All three films are crafted to inspire change that is much needed. What a time to be alive!
I give Love, Simon 5 out of 5 Daniel Radcliffe Posters
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.