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Love, Simon (dir. Berlanti)

Image: Alexandra Shipp, Nick Robinson, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., and Katherine Langford as friends in Love, Simon © Photograph by Ben Rothstein. Property of FOX Film Corp. [Source: IMDB]

★★★★☆

In this melodramatic teen landscape, student Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) hides a secret from his friends, family and classmates, he’s gay. He is comfortable in his lie until another mystery student is said to be closeted. This sparks the struggle in Simon to come to terms with his identity and deal with the threat of his secret coming out.

Director: Greg Berlanti. Starring: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Tony Hale [12A]

“I’m just like you, a caring family, a sister that I like, not that I’d tell her…I have a normal life…except for one thing”, Simon tells the audience as the film opens and it’s key in this film’s successes. It’s normal. That’s not to say it is bland or uninspired, it’s to say that this is a mainstream romantic, teen-perspective drama that begs no pity and forces no agenda. Sure it is from the perspective of a gay teen and the drama is very much fueled by that but it treats it as just another aspect of this teen’s life, never becoming whiny or preachy about this hot topic. Instead, Simon and other characters are charismatically written and are painfully real, nobody feels like a caricature despite the John Hughessian formula.

While it may brilliantly execute the John Hughes vibe of teen life and teen characters, this is very much a progressive, modern-day drama with its gooey romanticism still alive and well. In the same vein as John Hughes’s films like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Love, Simon is centred around social commentary but it is still, quite simply fun. There are many laughs and touching moments to experience as well as the more crueller aspects of the drama. Brought out by characters played with a stinging honesty with just the right level of goofy comedy you’d expect and it is what catapults Love, Simon to a wonderfully expansive picture.

The touching drama does, however, stumble occasionally, scenes fall flat and bog down the pacing as well as characters that do feel old worldly or unreasonably mean-spirited. Which could only come from wanting to have an antagonist for little purpose it adds. The film stands on its own tensions in the drama revolving around the main characters, who rather expertly act as their own antagonists. So it’s strange to have unnecessary characters that add nothing to the picture but remind people of the mean-spirited aspects of society which are ill-fitting in a gooey romantic comedy.

Love, Simon is an absolutely hearty, enchanting and refreshingly expressed fun story for any person, regardless of orientation. Its modern progressive romanticism is as gooey and touching as the characters are complex and charming. Hinged and carried on the terrific performances this film stands tall as a regular yet commentating rom-com drama that while it may stumble, it is expressed with a refreshing, optimistic glow and normality that makes Love, Simon a downright triumph.

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