Love, Simon is a 2018 romance-comedy based on the book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda written by Becky Albertalli. The film was directed by Greg Berlanti (Supergirl, The Flash, Riverdale) who is gay himself, and stars Nick Robinson as the titular character: Simon Spier, a typical high school teen who keeps a big secret from his family – his sexuality. The diverse cast provides for inclusive representation, including three black actors in major roles (Jorge Lendeborg, Keiynan Lonsdale, and Alexandra Shipp) as well as LGBTQ+ actors and allies (Miles Heizer and Katherine Langford). The producing collaboration between Temple Hill Entertainment and Fox 2000 Pictures makes Love, Simon the first film with a gay lead to ever be released by a major studio.
The film follows Simon as he begins to trade correspondence with an anonymous student at his school, Blue, who is also in the closet. Their emails allow them to express their insecurities and provide support for one another as they travel the heteronormative landscape of their environments, which feature your stereotypical homophobic bullies, parents that crack jokes about being gay, and high schoolers eager to expose the next big secret. However, to counterbalance these evil forces, the film provides something that others in the same genre may not – school staff that provide both support and extremely ingenious comedic relief.
In adapting a book to fit the screen, certain elements will always have to be moved, altered, or altogether dropped to make a functional film. In Love, Simon, this may be the film’s biggest flaw. The film begins with the characters and themes from the book but in portraying an on-screen adaption, certain cuts are made which make the characters more two-dimensional than one would like. Simon and Blue’s emails are cut from many to a few, side characters’ subplots got altered or cut, and even Simon’s sister was cut from the book to the film. On the other hand, however, the film welcomes certain changes that only improve on the novel, including one of the best gay music videos of the past decade and subtle jokes about Grindr, bears, and pocket pussy.
This film is different in that it doesn’t shy away from any of the themes it wants to put forward. Unlike other rom-coms, Love, Simon actually means something because it isn’t just for entertainment – it is a film made for every LGBTQ+ person who needs to know they can be themselves. Simon’s friends accept him, his parents have heartbreaking scenes showing how much they care, and by the end Simon finally accepts himself. What makes the film great is that the director understands the source material. As a gay man himself, he knows what it’s like in that situation and you can feel the emotion running throughout the film.
In the end, the film is just like other rom-coms, as it includes some cringe-worthy dialogue, a happy ending, and awkward situations throughout. But while this film doesn’t revolutionize the romance-comedy genre, it does deliver a film to the LGBTQ+ community that we have never had before. Greg Berlanti made another average rom-com but what sets this one apart is its LGBTQ+ protagonists and, above all, its incredible global reach. Although indie studios have made films such as Moonlight, Beach Rats, and Call Me by Your Name, those films only reached a limited number of theaters and were only accessible to those willing to drive to those locations. However with Fox 2000 Pictures behind the film, Love, Simon is able to reach all corners of the world and is currently playing in 2,402 theaters in the United States alone.
When I went to watch the film, I attended a screening at The Grove Pacific Theater on opening night, where I was surprised by the demographic within the screening room. As expected there were young gay couples, teen friend groups, singles, and families but there was also a large number of older gay men. I found it curious at first, but about halfway through the film I realized why those men had shown up and why this film matters — they were there to see the film they wish they’d had when they were growing up. Love, Simon is a film that looks people in the eye and says it is okay to be gay and you will be happiest once you embrace who you are. In the third act, Mrs. Spier (played by Jennifer Garner) delivers a monologue that has everyone in the room crying. She lets Simon know, “I can feel you holding your breath … I need you to hear this: You are still you, Simon. You get to exhale…”
I think Love, Simon is a landmark film because we don’t have enough films reassuring us it is okay to be ourselves, and we have even less of those all over the country. Love, Simon is heartwarming and I truly believe it will be life-saving to many people. Before production began, Nick Robinson’s own brother came out, and during shooting one of the leads decided to come out himself. This is a film that validates people’s feelings, identities, and should be part of every teen’s movie nights. This is a film for every person that has doubted who they are, is doubting who they are, and can’t find the strength within themselves to come to terms with who they are. This is a film for the people with unaccepting parents, in the Midwest, and stuck in a rough patch of their lives. This is a film that kids can sneak out of the house to watch at their local theaters, to buy on DVD. It is a film that kids can stream on their laptops and know that there is a world of acceptance and that it is okay to be who you really are.
Love, Simon is fun, heartwarming, and above all else — one of the most important films of our generation. Go watch it and support the LGBT+ filmmaking in the mainstream media.