No matter where you stand politically, it has been a rough couple of weeks to be an American. And if you’re feeling as bruised and battered, and quite frankly, horrified, by the sorry state of affairs in our country right now as I am, I suggest you turn off the news alerts on your phone, pop in your earbuds, and curl up with Love, Simon the next time you fly.
A warm, funny, and often achingly heartfelt LGBTQ teen comedy directed by the guy who writes and produces all those badass super hero shows on the CW – Emmy-nominated writer-director, Greg Berlanti (Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash) – Love, Simon, is, as cheesy as it may sound, that rare film that actually makes you proud to be an American. Celebrating the diversity, openness, and killer wit of the next great generation of young Americans like few Hollywood films have, perhaps the coolest thing about Love, Simon is that it makes a film about a gay teenager coming out as normal as a John Hughes movie.
I’m not saying the titular Simon (played, in a star-making turn by Jurassic World‘s Nick Robinson) has it easy or that coming out in the social media age is a walk in the park – the fact that teen suicide is the second leading cause of death in LGBTQ teens proves that it’s not – but by depicting Simon’s journey of self discovery in such an open, loving, and beautifully nuanced way, the film both normalizes and personalizes the problems of LGBTQ youth to stunning effect.
And while the film might be a little shiny and Hollywood-ish in spots – seriously, did anyone have parents as attractive as Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel? – deep down, Love, Simon’s greatest attribute is how normal and totally universal Simon’s story is. Not just for enlightened, forward-thinking high schoolers who grew up with a black president and terms like gender fluidity and cisnormativity, but also, hopefully, and perhaps more importantly, for their parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents who still crack gay jokes about their best friend at work behind their backs.
Some might argue that Love, Simon undercuts the LGBTQ movement a bit by whitewashing the painful reality of questioning teens, but the fact that the gay character is elevated from sassy best friend status to the male lead in a mainstream Hollywood teen comedy is cause for serious celebration in my book.
Opening with closeted teen Simon (Robinson) revealing via voice-over that despite his loving family, amazing friends, and fairly open-minded high school, he has one “big ass secret” that is kind of eating him alive, And though most people in Simon’s orbit wouldn’t care or even be that shocked by Simon’s admission that he’s gay, Simon himself is having a hard time coming to grips with who he really is. But everything changes after Simon connects via anonymous email with another closeted gay kid at his school with the screen name Blue. Opening up to one another via funny, sweet, and sometimes wildly romantic email exchanges, the two forge a strong bond that is quickly tested when Simon is outed and his private emails to Blue are shared with the entire school.
Featuring amazing supporting turns from a host of talented newcomers, including Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Simon’s best male friend, Nick, and Straight Outta Compton’s Alexandra Shipp as the newest member of Simon and Nick’s morning coffee posse, Abby, the film’s real secret weapon is 13 Reason Why’s Katherine Langford as Leah. Sweet, vulnerable, and heartbreakingly good as Simon’s oblivious, love-struck BFF hoping and yearning for something more, Langford shows depth beyond her years in a beautifully-written role.
Adapted from Becky Albertalli‘s 2015 novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by This Is Us writer-producers Elizabeth Berger and Isaak Aptaker, Love, Simon is also easily the most authentically real teen comedy in a generation. And while I hate to oversell it, the only really bad thing about this movie is that it has to end after one hour and forty-nine minutes. Seriously, I could live in Love, Simon’s tolerant, accepting, and perfectly imperfect world forever. Really great stuff!
Now playing on select AmericanAirlines, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, and Emirates flights worldwide, Love, Simon is also available via streaming at Google Play, Amazon Video, and iTunes.