It may have taken until 2018 for a major movie studio like 20th Century Fox to release a gay teen rom-com but thankfully the film is charming, humorous and big-hearted. Love, Simon comes at two existing types of films, the teen rom-com and the coming-out tale, from an altogether fresh point of view and as a result feels altogether new.
Like many teen comedies, the film offers up a polished version of high-school where teens are impossibly more articulate and cool than their real-life counterparts. However, the film never normalizes the struggles of Simon's sexuality. Nor does it shy away from the often narrow perspective that people have on "coming out" or even being gay. Routinely the film takes chances to explore how the world, especially teens, deal with homosexuals.
At the center of the film is Nick Robinson playing Simon Spier. Robinson gives a effortlessly charming and sincere performance here. Simon Spier is a normal kid, as he declares in the film's opening moments, but he has one big secret. When an anonymous kid at his high school posts on a message board that he is gay, Simon decides to reach out incognito and begins a romance with "Blue." Simon reveals he is gay too and the two talk about their fears of coming out, inspiring each other in the process.
Interlaced is a slew of complications among Simon's friends. Martin (Logan Miller) finds out Simon's secret and blackmails him into setting him up with Abby (Alexandra Shipp). Simon is so terrified of exposure and the change of losing "Blue" that he goes along and manipulates his other friends Leah (Katherine Langford) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr) in the process.
Director Greg Berlanti keeps all of this interesting thanks to the great ensemble of young actors he casts. Natasha Rothwell is a standout as well as a fed-up drama teacher trying to mount a school production of Cabaret. The film plays like a mystery for a while as Simon tries to find out who "Blue" is but the film shifts in its second half to deal directly with Simon's coming out. He has conversations with his parents and friends, is bullied at school and sees the world treat him differently as he announces he is gay. Robinson's performance in these moments is truly wonderful, capturing these tough moments with great sensitivity.
Love, Simon is not without its clichés. It hits familiar beats that would feel more obvious if the whole thing wasn't so full of emotional truth and a fresh point of view. The film is funny and insightful in the way the best John Hughes films are. Hughes is a clear influence on the film but not in a derivative way. Love, Simon is a earnest and welcomed film.