Warning : I have tried to do this review several times, It was meant to be a video review but due to my uncontrollable crying and inability to get through it without becoming a crying mess I have decided that writing it is probably the safest way to go. So if you will please imagine me starting to tear up and then completely breakdown about halfway through the review. You have been warned.
In the “Age of Inclusion” the next film to make a dent is Love, Simon. Setup as a coming of age story, turned mainstream teen gay romance film, Love, Simon does a fantastic job at making everything appear normal. In fact the opening line of the movie is “I’m just like you, I’m normal” as we pan through a McMansion with white picket fence, perfect mother (Jennifer Garner) and father (Josh Duhamel) and Top Chef Junior obsessed sister Nora (Talitha Bateman). It was here I started to be concerned about stereotypes but these characters are not a walking talking cliche. They are real and deep thanks to a well written script and well rounded characters we have one of, if not the best indie gay themed film for mainstream audiences.
Simon (Nick Robinson) is your ordinary teenager, going through high school, he has his close group of friends who drink WAY too much iced coffee and watch 90’s movies. The movie teases that Simon has a big secret and after an interesting encounter with a gardener across the road, it is pretty obvious that he is gay and struggling to come out. There is another out student at the school Ethan (Clark Moore) who is subject to constant bullying and harassment, but also has some of the best comebacks. The school’s hands on vice principal Mr Worth (Tony Hale) is played for comedic relief while the best lines of the film are reserved for drama teacher Ms.Albright (Natasha Rothwell) who I want to watch on repeat everyday for the rest of my life.
When a fellow student comes out anonymously online on the schools gossip blog (think Gossip Girl without the XOXO) under the nickname of Red, Simon responds and creates the character of Blue aka Jacques. The two banter back and forth and discuss how and when they will come out and help each other through the hard times ahead of them as the school year progresses. The film does a great job of misdirection pointing different suspects as to who Red is and if Simon knows them. The film does this perfectly and is a great back and forth allowing some background characters to be explored further.
The movie does such a good job and is a positive breath of fresh air after all of the action and explosion blockbusters we have seen as of late. This is a complete gear shift and the whole movie is purely based around conversations and while there are a couple of events during the film, it never loses its pacing. This is largely helped by the hugely talented cast, Robinson is the perfect lead with the mix of adorable and relatable. Garner and Duhamel are the perfect parents, after seeing years of awful Transformers movies, it is nice to see Duhmal in a role that he can stretch his legs and showcase just what a great actor he really is. The films director Greg Berlanti (The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl) handles the source material perfectly, crafting a coming of age tale and delivering the first solid, well rounded gay character for mainstream cinema.
I have watched a lot of cries for representation over the last few years from people of colour, women and asians. I have always tried to be supportive and understanding, it wasn’t until this movie that I realised just how much representation matters. Part of my emotional breakdown in this movie was thinking back to when I was a teenager/young adult struggling with my sexuality in a very different world to what we live in now, being told by everyone around me that it was wrong and evil, that I was going to hell and needed to be cured, that it is a “choice”. It was in this moment that I saw myself in the character of Simon and how incredible it is that young people now have movies and messages like this being broadcast to them that yes, you are ok, this is normal, this is accepted and you are loved. It was profound and really hit home how much we need more representation like this and for all people in the stories we see.
Love, Simon has delivered a classic coming of age tale while managing to be a beacon for gay representation on screen. With a tight script, outstanding performances, stellar soundtrack and compelling characters you will fall in love with this film like I have. The overwhelming message of positivity and inclusion is played out perfectly and will make you want to keep coming back for more. This is an achievement in cinema this year and earns a place in my top films of 2018 (so far) make sure you head out and support this film, not only for representation but for being a film of quality and substance worth seeing on the big screen.
Review by Alaisdair Leith.
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