By Brian Brecker
Elm Staff Writer
“Love, Simon” does not merely tug at your heartstrings, for an LGBTQ person like myself, it uproots them entirely. I swear I only cried four times. The story follows a young man in his senior year of high school named Simon as he reaches out to an anonymous student over the internet as the two of them fall in love despite both being closeted. The film captures the obsessive infatuation of first loves, surrounded by the suffocating backdrop of being stuck in the closet. It depicts a unique point, that people don’t closet themselves; society does it by assuming heterosexuality as the default. The horrors of outing in a judgmental and cliquish high school atmosphere are explored. Most of the real nervous energy stems from the sterling performance of Nick Robinson, who gives the audience an entry way to the young mind where the smallest social transgression or embarrassment is escalated to apocalyptic proportions.
The supporting cast is hilarious and provides three dimensional characters with complicated and unique perspectives. This emphasis on character development and coming-of-age has led to inevitable comparisons between the John Hughes classics, “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles.”
The writing is full of emotional intelligence and character detail. The fact that Simon does not know who Blue is gives the film a “who done it” aspect that is played around with to an entertaining effect. In this film, each disappointment leads itself to an increasing sense of isolation for our main character that can only be rectified by embracing who he is on the inside.
The humor is consistently fantastic and is derived from the characters, their perspectives, and for Simon himself, his fantasies. The profound sense of isolation that he feels while closeted leads him towards these needs for escape, for which email conversations with Blue provide a relief. This leads the audience to have an understanding of its main character beyond merely his actions, but to see how time passes or how he perceives the environment around him. Simon’s father is also a constant source of entertainment, as an ‘80s hair metal playing emotional man who reacts to uncomfortable situations with jokes.
The most groundbreaking aspect of the film is the fact that it contextualizes a gay teen romance as a big budget, Hughes-style throwback comedy-drama. “Love, Simon” is so vividly simple and heartwarming in its concept and production. The only twist is that Simon and Blue are gay. However, as we see Simon struggle with being an LGBTQ teen, the messages learned from this are universally sublime. No matter your orientation you deserve love and are valuable for your own sake, and yes, you also deserve a big budget John Hughes romantic comedy that a history of homophobia has kept from being made. In other words, you have a right as an LGBTQ person to be thought of as normal.
This may be controversial towards some people in the more political side of the LGBTQ community who feel like they don’t want queer culture to become mainstreamed. However, this normalization of queer romance is not serving the ends of commodifying LGBTQ culture, but instead seeking the universal truths underneath what it means to be accepted, to love, and love oneself. The movie is so intimate and genuine that I believe one would be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t give into its many charms throughout the 110-minute run time.
To have a genuine, emotionally intelligent, crowd pleasing Hughes-esque comedy drama about a queer romance breaks LGBTQ films out of the underground and into the mainstream, and as long as the soul of LGBTQ creators remain involved, there should be no reason to fear this shift. It’s fine for heterosexual and cisgender people to celebrate LGBTQ culture, so long as that culture continues to be made to appeal to the interests and sensibilities of its LGBTQ audience. It may be easy for a heterosexual to say this is “just gay John Hughes” and dismiss “Love, Simon” when they already have comedy drama romantic classics. For the rest of us, this is something we have never seen and is an affirming gift long deserved. This shouldn’t cause an issue, as the universal themes of forbidden romance and love transcend gender.
“Love, Simon” is a beautiful, impactful film and it deserves the cost of the ticket regardless of your orientation or gender identity. I would call it revolutionarily ordinary, but that may undercut the true quality of the film, which is sublime. Just bring tissues when the waterworks get going.