Love, Simon (Berlanti, 2018)

Love, Simon reminded me a little of last year’s Wonder, which was (if you remember) about the child with the facial disfigurement. Both are very safe and “clean” uplifters about self-acceptance and tolerance that are fundamentally structured to give you a good cry. Both are based on popular young adult novels. Both are, in my mind, very good films for what they are. And both are quite imperfect, and those imperfections are not hard to pinpoint. But I feel Love, Simonis the one that changes the game more, because it’s the first time a major studio has bankrolled a film about a gay teen and his love life—and one that doesn’t scream PSA or misery porn. For a change, this queer story ends happily, and doesn’t act like a black thundercloud over our heads. No one dies, there’s no blood spilled, no one becomes a drug addict or is kicked out of their home… it just ends happily. And that’s perfectly fine. Because there are many, many liberal and progressive families out there who readily accept their kids when they come out, and this happy outcome also offers hope to those who are still too scared or uncertain about revealing the biggest secret of their lives. All because there’s a film like this that reassures the world that it’s OK to be gay (and, by association, bi, lesbian, trans, genderqueer, non-binary, and everything else encompassed under the LGBTQ embrace). That your beauty isn’t taken from you when the world knows your sexual orientation—that, conversely, you become even more beautiful because of it. A hopeful and positive film like this, while playing it safe on the surface, actually can do a whole world of good, and for that, its importance is self-evident. This is cinema that people will owe their lives to.

The film critic in me does want to complain, even if just a little, about how few of the supporting cast are actually fleshed out in any substantive way here, and how Simon’s climatic Ferris wheel ride is kinda selfishly gratuitous in the way it pressures his anonymous pen-pal to out himself to the whole school when maybe he wasn’t planning on doing it just yet. Simon rips into his blackmailer for callously outing him when he wasn’t ready, so I wondered why Simon felt it was his job to out Blue? It struck me as a little hypocritical. But their kisses were so fucking adorable that I couldn’t stay mad at the scene for long. I was also rather puzzled that Simon’s friends didn’t show more sympathy towards the fact that he was being blackmailed. I get that he meddled in their love lives (against his will), but coming out is a life-changing experience, and being cruelly outed even more so. I don’t know why that didn’t register for them, and why they chose to give him the cold shoulder during the most difficult days of his life. Maybe Simon seriously needs to consider finding new friends, because I don’t know if this current bunch is all that. Finally, what kind of awful performance is Tony Hale giving here? I don’t think I’ve seen him overact so much as to clash with his surroundings, but here he is, delivering us a character that belongs on a bad children’s TV show.

Fortunately, what I find faults, others will call highlights, so now that I’ve gotten them out of the way, I can fully endorse Love, Simon and tell you that it’s a heartwarming treat. If you haven’t seen it yet, rent/buy it, get the whole family together, and see if the power of film will soften hearts and turn fear into acceptance, and narrow minds into enlightened ones. Chances are, some good will come out of it, at any rate.