Love, Simon comes out swinging


Finding love in high school is a challenge everyone can relate to. From California to Maine, young love is a journey that has spanned across generations. A new film, Love, Simon, has decided to take on this quest for love with a modern twist: Simon is gay.

The marketing for this movie made it seem as though the whole film revolved around Simon, the main character, and his sexuality, yet this could not be further from the truth. Simon is fleshed out as a typical American teenager, with a nice house in the suburbs, good friends, a loving family, and a school where he manages to get by.

He listens to alternative (yet popular) bands. He’s not always comfortable in big social scenes, and he doesn’t like to put himself out there too much.  He’s a blank slate character, without many facets to his personality, which is a bit of a detriment, but it also allows for viewers to more easily relate to him. While he’s not the greatest character possible, Simon is relatable to a lot of people going through struggles like his, especially teenagers. Learning to accept who you are and being yourself are lessons that everyone needs to learn, and Simon is the audience’s vessel for those lessons.

The movie follows the coming of age plot that you may have seen a few times before. A somewhat typical “person starts out with life being okay, tensions rise, person’s life comes crashing down, friends abandon said person, then person accepts the new reality they have been presented with and life becomes better than it was before” formula. While I would have liked to see more deviation from this formula, I can say that the movie makes good use of it by filling the run time with silly antics, goofy jokes, and heartwarming character revelations. If you’ve seen a few coming of age stories, you’ll probably be able to predict the general beats of, but you will still be surprised by what comes in-between.

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The main characters. From left, Nick, Simon, Abby, and Leah

Simon is played by Nick Robinson, who does a great job at breathing life into a slightly formulaic script. He carries the demeanor of a kid who’s just trying to get by while also holding back a secret part of himself from everyone he knows and cares about, and he does it with style. Simon feels like a real person, like someone you would see walking through the halls at school, mostly thanks to Robinson’s performance. His best friend, Leah Burke (Katherine Langford) is also outstanding at being the childhood and current friend of Simon. There is great chemistry between the two of them. Nearly every time, her reaction to the situation she is presented with seems genuine and honest, although she does have a few minor occasions where her reaction seems unrealistic.

Simon’s best bro, Nick Eisner, is portrayed by Jorge Lendeborg Jr. to great success. Nick is a nice, chill guy who plays soccer and does his best to help out his friends, and Lendeborg nails it every time he’s on screen. Rounding out Simon’s group of friends is Abby Suso (Alexandra Shipp), who is the odd one out in the group. She moved into town three months before the movie takes place, and as such does not have as much history with Simon as the others. However, she quickly finds a natural fit into the group of friends and quickly becomes closer with all of them. Shipp is convincing as Abby and makes her screen time count, even when she is put into uncomfortable situations.

The side characters don’t fair quite as well as the main cast in terms of depth or likeability. There’s the goofy theatre director Ms. Albright, played by Natasha Rothwell, who, while a bit flat at times, delivers several good laughs throughout the film. The vice principal Mr. Worth (Tony Hale) is that stereotypical “friend to everyone” character that’s appeared in dozens of films before, although Hale does give some new flare to the character in his limited screen time.

The one character that wasn’t very well done was Martin, played by Logan Miller. In the beginning, Martin is kind of an annoying kid. Simon doesn’t like to hang out with him. That part is fine and well done. However, as the plot moves forward, Martin becomes more involved and ultimately ends up as a major factor of the climax of the film. At this point, he’s still alright. Not great, but at least believable.

The thing that killed him for me was the last 20 minutes, in which the filmmakers attempt to redeem him by having him do something kind, but it doesn’t do his character much justice. Sure, his nice act is appreciated, but it doesn’t outweigh or even come close to equaling the damage he did. For someone trying to be redeemed, he’s definitely no angel.

The amount of talent in this film surprised me even more when I discovered that this film cost $10 million to make. In Hollywood terms, that’s barely anything. In a year where Star Wars can cost up to half a billion dollars and Transformers is looking to add even more explosions to its jumbled action, Love, Simon takes a simplistic, yet realistic approach to its storytelling that saves tons of money. Most of the film takes place in someone’s house or at school because most of any teen’s day is spent there.

The two other locations are a Waffle House and a carnival, both of which would be somewhat cheap to rent out for a few hours during filming. It’s truly impressive just how much can be done with such a small budget. With this film making $29 million (a $12 million profit including marketing costs) in its first two weeks and looking to make more in the near future, we should expect to see more films that showcase the talents of new actors, writers, and developers without being too much of a risk for production studios.

Love, Simon is a coming of age story you’ve probably seen already, but it shines with all of the passion the cast and crew put into it. Its likable characters, realistic drama, and genuine emotion draw you in and keep you invested the whole time. While it may not be the greatest coming of age story ever (Sandlot is, and I’ll debate anyone who says otherwise), the film does everything in its power to make you feel good for these characters. By the end of the run time, you too will love Simon.