Review: ‘Love, Simon’ brings relatable storyline

Kaitlyn Budion

“Love, Simon” is a touching story about being a closeted high schooler that offers all the heartfelt relationships of a romantic comedy with none of the tired tropes. The movie is fun, quirky and adorable, and something that LGBTQA+ kids rarely get to see on screen. While it is not perfect, the movie is a large step in the right direction for LGBTQA+ media representation.

“Love, Simon,” directed by Greg Berlanti with screenplay by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, is based off the novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli. The movie does a great job at balancing the elements of a romantic comedy and a coming-of-age story. The storyline follows the life of 17-year-old Simon, played by Nick Robinson, a high school student who just wants to have a normal high school experience with his friends.

The film also centers on Simon’s relationship with his sexuality and the people around him, including Blue, a fellow closeted student Simon connects with over email and whose identity is kept secret from both Simon and the audience for most of the movie.

In addition to the entertaining plot, the movie was tremendously well-written. When first messaging Blue, Simon doesn’t say that he is gay. Simon’s actions and thoughts clearly demonstrate that he is gay, but like many closeted teens, he just can’t seem to say the words.

The realistic storyline continues in Simon’s experiences later in the movie. He is outed by another student named Martin, played by Logan Miller, who blackmails him on the internet. He then experiences what I call the “casual nightmare” of every closeted person: While his parents don’t kick him out, nor does he get beat up at school, he is still suddenly distanced from his close family and friends. He becomes isolated.

While this may not have been the worst case scenario, everything changed for Simon. This is the possible reality that makes kids like Simon scared to come out to their friends and family, even if they know their loved ones will accept it. It is scary, and it’s a fear that is rarely shown on screen.

This isn’t the first movie to show a gay kid’s struggle. It is what “Love, Simon” does afterward that really sold it for me: After he is outed and isolated, Simon’s life has a huge upswing. He makes up with his parents and they seem closer than ever before, resulting in the most touching and important scenes in the film.

The parents exhibit the perfect response to a child coming out. Simon’s dad, Jack, apologizes to him for missing the moment Simon’s life changed when he realized he was gay. Jack, played by Josh Duhamel, reiterates his unconditional love for his son and shows his support. Simon’s mom reminds him that he deserves happiness, a fact that can be hard for LGBTQA+ teens to remember. The recovery and restart of Simon’s relationship with his parents is touching and heartfelt without ever crossing the line into cheesy.

That doesn’t mean there were not flaws.

The resolution of Simon’s conflict with his friends was a bit of a stretch. After Martin outs Simon, Simon’s friends realize that he manipulated them for Martin, resulting in confusion and heartbreak. His friends become upset and entirely unempathetic of the fact that Simon was blackmailed, and proceed to ignore him.

I found myself wanting to shout at them. How could they leave Simon in his time of crisis? But then Simon totally ignores how poorly they handled him coming out and they make up immediately. While I understand the urge to have the gang get back together, I was left feeling upset with the characters long after they had moved on.

Furthermore, Simon is a white man from a well-off suburban family. No matter how well-done this movie is, it doesn’t change the fact that few people in the LGBTQA+ community experience this situation. Hollywood has a major problem with portraying LGBTQA+ people of color: They act like they don’t exist. You can have a token gay person and a token black person, but those are two separate categories and heaven forbid they touch.

Still, I must recognize the milestone that the movie achieves in giving Simon a happy ending. While many movies and TV shows often kill off gay characters or leave them to live tragic lives forever, Simon gets his romantic resolution with Blue — and that is a big deal. Sometimes films with LGBTQA+ representation can be hard to watch because they consist of never-ending angst, tragedy and sadness, and the main character never gets the love interest. It was incredibly refreshing to see Simon succeed and achieve his happy ending.

If they had done any less, it would have cheapened the story, but with any more it would have been overwhelming and cheesy. “Love, Simon”  presents a heartfelt story without trivializing the experiences of the LGBTQA+ community. Yet while people can — and should — enjoy “Love, Simon,” they must remember that this shouldn’t be the gold standard for representation. Yes, it is a step in the right direction, but we need to continue this process.

I would like to address the claims from other reviewers who say today’s teens don’t need this movie. I could not disagree more. Just because we got “Moonlight” and “Call Me By Your Name” in the last two years doesn’t mean Hollywood has hit its quota for LGBTQA+ representation for the decade.

And to those who watched this touching film and walked away thinking that kids today don’t need this, I have a fun fact for you: You’re Martin. You’re the one who outs a high schooler because you don’t think it’ll be “that bad.” So I suggest you go rewatch the movie and try to have some empathy for the people around you.