Being out about yourself is okay in Greg Berlanti’s universal love letter, Love, Simon.
It is often said that we find the best parts of ourselves in high school. We still have the time to be free spirits and to strengthen our characters as we get ready to venture out into the world. Greg Berlanti’s film, Love, Simon is as much a love letter to the best (formative) years of our lives, along with the privilege of being a universal letter to humanity to not only accept our own identity, but to accept one another’s identity exactly as we are. In fact, I would go so far as to say that identity is not and should not be a defining characteristic.
In Isaac Aptaker’s and Elizabeth Berger’s story, based on Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Simon (Nick Robinson) plays a closeted high school-aged student, whose friends nor family know about his being gay. He struggles to keep his identity a secret, but a situation in which a blackmailer threatens to out him forces his game plan to change, much to his chagrin. He uses an online chat as his outlet with a fellow closeted classmate.
Berlanti’s first film was The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy, so it is safe to say that he knows a thing or two about dramas where the central thesis is not about hiding who you are from the world, but in logically putting the puzzle pieces of coming out together. His direction in Love, Simon is no different. His use of the camera, his selection of Nick Robinson in the role of Simon is perfection, playing the multi-faceted nature of the role very convincingly, but most certainly as a Romeo searching for his “Juliet.”
The supporting cast is what strengthens Robinson’s performances as well as Berlanti’s direction. Josh Duhamel plays Jack. Jack is effervescent in his role as he tries his best to be arty and crafty, only to have Simon come in and help him see the light. Jennifer Garner plays Emily, Simon’s mom. This was a difficult role for her because it required her to be subdued and in the background, something that is against her type, but her performance is absolutely graceful.
The scene between Robinson and Garner reminded me of the scene between Timothee Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg in Call Me by Your Name. Berlanti found the essence of the film in this particular scene. Which makes the actors who played Simon’s peers, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr. and Keiynan Lonsdale so compelling. They never suspect Simon’s identity, but they never question it either, accepting him for who he is.
Of course, this type of story wouldn’t be possible without an antagonist, this time in the form of Logan Miller’s Martin Addison. He’s just slimy enough to make you want to hate him throughout Love, Simon, and I thought that was a brilliant touch. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Talitha Bateman’s Nora, Simon’s sister, who has the ungodly task of taking Simon’s outrage at a point in the film. But, she’s the type of sister you’d want to have if you had to come out to. She is the most accepting character, emulating the audience’s empathy. Just thinking about their scenes together makes me well up with emotion.
But, I’ll let you discover this love letter to humanity. Take it for what it is, accept no substitutes and if Greg Berlanti just happens to read this review, I just want to thank you for channeling your inner John Hughes. His imprimatur is all over this film and I am absolutely over the moon about Love, Simon.
Love, Simon is now on premium digital outlets and on Blu-ray and DVD and has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA.
While you’re at it, check out this review of Adrift now in theaters.