“Do you ever feel weird?”
Based on the 2015 YA novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is a film that 2018 needs but one that doesn’t necessarily maximise its potential. The story itself is a beautiful one. Simon (Nick Robinson) has life pretty much made. He’s got some great friends, a really lovely family and school is pretty much a breeze. The only problem he has is that he feels unable to tell anyone that he is gay.
The refreshing aspect of the story is the fact the dilemmas within the story don’t stem from Simon’s lack of self-acceptance. Much of LGBTQ+ cinema and literature roots itself in the protagonists inability to accept their sexuality, agonising over feeling a way they wouldn’t chose to feel. Simon is very comfortable with the fact that he is gay. What he’s not comfortable with is the very fact he ‘has’ to come out. He makes a very astute point when he asks, courtesy of voiceover narration that is very well chosen, why is it only gay people who have to ‘come out’? Why must he ‘tell’ the masses his truth?
It’s this aspect of the story that feels fresh and thought-provoking. The rest of the film, however, follows the path of a typical coming-of-age movie and, while it does those things well, it feels like its following a well tread path; a path that is too tried and too tested, Whilst well-told and charming, it feels almost too light and too throwaway. This isn’t to say that the film needs to be more shocking or more thought-provoking; more that the story and the world it is set in could be less idealized or more developed. It’s a charming world we get to spend time in, but it’s also one that feels unremarkable.
It follows the typical narrative of a teen movie, each conflict and resolution plays out as expected, but it doesn’t have the distinguishing perceptive dialogue of a John Hughes movie or the depth of characters a la Ten Things I Hate About You or Clueless. The characters mostly remain archetypal, and Simon is the only character really explored in depth.
That’s not to undermine the film as it is a really charming watch. It’s sweet, entertaining and engaging from the outset. But overall the direction of the film just feels competent and somewhat vanilla. The cast performances are fantastic, particularly Robinson who provides a star turn here. Yes, we don’t get enough teen movies any more. Yes, we don’t get enough romantic comedies. But this isn’t as memorable or emotive as Edge Of Seventeen or Lady, Bird. Whilst this film feels long overdue it feels like it could have gone more under the surface and a bit deeper.
The story itself may not be fresh or revelatory but just maybe that’s a good thing and shows where we are now/where we can be as a society. It’s not a radical movie but it is one that advocates anti-cruelty, decency, compassion and love.
Things that 2018 often feels in short supply of.