Review by Jacquelin Hipes
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) lives the perfect, upper middle class suburban life. He has two loving parents and a good relationship with his younger sister. On his sixteenth birthday he got a car, which he now uses to carpool with his three best friends to their senior year of high school. An enviable life, weighed down by the secret Simon has held close for four years: he’s gay. Not a single friend, family member, or stranger knows the truth. Until the day an anonymous poster confesses on a school gossip blog that he too is in the closet.
Overwhelmed, Simon creates a dummy e-mail account of his own and reaches out. Going by the pseudonym “Jacques”, he and the other boy (“Blue”) start sharing more about their lives. Simon quickly becomes enamored, engaging for the first time in a relationship where he doesn’t feel the need to lie or skirt around the truth of his sexuality. He compulsively checks the anonymous account, even in the school library where it’s discovered by the resident loudmouth, Martin (Logan Miller).
Martin leverages this information into blackmail: he likes Simon’s friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp), who’s currently nursing a crush on their friend Nick (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.). Get her to go out with him instead, Martin offers, and he won’t leak Simon’s secret to the entire school. Even though the love and support of his family and friends is never in doubt, Simon understandably fears what kind of change his coming out would bring. He wants to maintain the status quo a little longer, just until he moves away to college. So he goes along with Martin’s blackmail, jeopardizing everything—including his relationships with childhood best friend Leah (Katherine Langford) and “Blue”—to keep the messages secret, while simultaneously trying to deduce who his online pen pal might be.
Robinson does a marvelous job as Simon, a slight tension to his carriage and flickering eyes betraying how he “holds his breath” whenever blasé assumptions about his sexuality occur. He captures the teenage angst of discovering and declaring who you’ve grown to be with relatable awkwardness. Langford does equally well as the best friend, with stares a beat too long that suggest she’s hiding a secret of her own. While the rest of the ensemble rises to the occasion too, Tony Hale and Natasha Rothwell steal the show as the vice principal and drama teacher at Simon’s school.
The script by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker brims with hilarity. Hale and Rothwell might get some of the juiciest bits, but there’s plenty to go around. Sincerity balances the humor nicely. Love, Simon seems aware of the expectations leveled at it: like the superhero flicks Wonder Woman and Black Panther, its failure risks garnering an “I told you so” and its success could open all kinds of doors for similarly diverse stories in the future. It never feels weighed down by the responsibility, though. And best of all, Love, Simon is a genuinely great film from start to finish. (Open doors look like the safe bet.)
Everything gets wrapped up neatly, which may suit the movies better than real life. But even that neatness is welcome in its own way. Friends should be there to listen. Your family should love you unconditionally. We aren’t always as lucky as Simon or as mature as the people that love him, but it helps to be reminded just how far a little compassion can go. If Love, Simon is another indication of a new trend in Hollywood—diverse movies brimming with heart, wit, and grace—then I’m all for it and I think audiences will be too.