Movie Review: Love, Simon
              Image Source: The New Yorker

Written By: Scott Gunnion

Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Production Companies: Fox 2000 Pictures and Temple Hill Productions
Director: Greg Berlanti
Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner and Pouya Shahbazian
Scriptwriters: Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger
Main Cast: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner
Released: March 16 2018
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Certificate: 12A

Hitherto a most joyous, rewarding and deeply touching viewing experience, I had read several critical dissections of Love, Simon that incorrectly proclaimed it to be a John Hughes-type film for the adolescent audience of today.

Upon viewing, it became abundantly clear that people had incorrectly pigeonholed this film as just your ordinary coming-of-age tale. But believe me when I say this: Love, Simon is so much more than that. Featuring the first gay kiss in a Hollywood teenage film, Love, Simon cements itself as a culturally significant piece of cinema. To compare it to The Breakfast Club and other iconic pieces in the John Hughes canon of cinema would be to overlook the naked greatness of this movie. After all, John Hughes is probably best remembered for introducing us to a mischievous Macauley Culkin wreaking havoc and causing mayhem on his adult antagonists. But Simon is no prankster or instrument of rebellion, he is the unwitting guardian of his own secrets. He is a performer, putting on an act as he conceals his true self.

Love, Simon pulls no punches. There are no gimmicks or ongoing jokes. No witty one liners, although there are moments of genuine comedy, albeit not laugh-out-loud. Love, Simon is nothing less than unforgiving in its ability to tug at the heartstrings and render silent even the most cynical and resistant of witnesses.

Simon’s journey towards self-acceptance is spurned on by an online correspondence he forms with an anonymous blogger who announces on a school chatroom forum that he is a closeted gay.

Simon forms a romantic, somewhat idealistic – and at time unsettling – attachment to this shielded, mystery penfriend, often speculating upon his identity and forming fleeting attachments to momentary suspects doomed ultimately to be eliminated from suspicion due to logical deductions and disheartening observations. He plays detective as he sets about his own voyage of self-discovery and self-acceptance.

This is truly a movie for the burgeoning youths born in the early years of the millennium. A tale of love and romance for the Facebook age and Instagram generation. Simon falls in love with somebody without a face and without a name. He is the antithesis of superficial in the age of photoshopped Instagram snaps and the recycled verbosity of empty, plagiarised attempts at wisdom that have come to dominate Facebook statuses.

Here, Hollywood does gay without having to resort to camp or stereotypes. Simon is the hero of the piece and he is never anything less than an American everyman. The star of the piece who just happens to be gay. It doesn’t define him, but his journey does define the social importance of this film in introducing atypical gay characters to the mainstream. Simon is just like you. And that’s what marks this film out from the rest.

I felt the audience become stirred as it breathed a collective sigh of relief when Simon unfolds and bares his soul to his parents as they unwrap presents around the Christmas tree. Simon’s gift to himself is the luxury of unshackling himself from the restrictive burden of having to conceal his secret. I shared the audience’s genuine sympathy and delight for the protagonist.

Far from submitting himself to the eulogies of public judgment and condemnation, when Simon is outed online by the film’s comic relief, he stands tall and defiant and faces the world head on.

Nobody treats him differently because he is gay, they instead shun him for acts of questionable morality committed at a time when he was desperately striving to conceal his secret at any cost. He indulges in dirty deeds and manipulative actions in an effort to preserve his secret from those around him.

Outed against his will, the outcast is an outcast only momentarily, and is quickly re-embraced by the other lions in the pack.

“I knew you had a secret, I just didn’t know what it was” reveals his mother (an underused Jennifer Garner) to a Simon left anxious and disconcerted in the aftermath of his big reveal. And a mother always knows; we all know that. His father breaks down in a rare show of emotion and tells him he still loves him. I thought of myself, who hates to share his emotions or express them openly. But I was holding back the tears for most of the third act, which is when the movie really comes into its own and distinguishes itself.

The third act is defined by Simon’s quest to finally learn the identity of his secret correspondent, building up to a marquee scene much akin to the climax in Never Been Kissed, and just as heartbreaking.

The happy ending we all knew was coming still manages to land one final surprise, a conclusion that proves to the audience that this film is always one step ahead.

Love, Simon will make you fall in love with falling in love as it takes a chokehold of your emotional restraint and sober composure. Prepare for your eyes to stream, glasses to steam and contact lenses to blur in the overwhelming emotion of a film that is brimming with heart, brimming with hope and frothing forth with a blind idealism that is hard to resist.

This isn’t a film about being gay: it’s about having a secret, wrestling with it, and how one chooses to unburden themselves from it as they wrestle over with whom they should share it. And everybody can relate to that because everybody carries secrets around with them.

Although not a laugh-out-loud comedy, there were certainly elements of comedy, but they never detract from the serious messages that the film seeks to impress upon those watching.

The climax of the movie was fondly reminiscent of Never Been Kissed, but in no way did it plagiarise the outcome. When Simon finally meets his masker suitor, I assure you your heart will truly melt.

“Everybody deserves a great love story” says the protagonist, and who could argue with that. The suburban Atlanta setting is at least a couple hundred miles detached from the safe, comfortable liberalism of California and the North East. But his parents accept him for who he is and, with it, the audience rejoices.

Embark upon this experience with a handkerchief, or the expectation that your face will be holding back spasms as you try to hold a straight face and not allow yourself to be overcome with emotion.

And I stress once again: this is not a film about being gay. This is a film about being human and being vulnerable. A film about learning to accept your quirks and imperfections and share with people your true self.

I loved Love, Simon, and pray to God that Tim Burton never lays his eyes on the finish piece for fear of him taking it upon himself to produce a remake or reinterpretation, as he is so prone to doing. The man must be stopped. No, Mr Burton: stick to Beetlejuice 2, if you must. And leave Johnny Depp out of it.

Fortunately for Love, Simon, its box office performance has been mediocre enough that vultures will leave it well alone, and let it enjoy its legacy in being a film that is innately great in its pure and uncorrupted form.

Overall Rating: 8/10 – Very Good