This film will not win an Oscar, it will not win a Golden Globe, it won’t even be nominated. But it is important, for many people it will be the most important film they see this year.
Based on the 2015 novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by American author Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon is a big budget, romantic comedy from director Greg Berlanti, known for The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy which follows the lives of a group of gay friends in West Hollywood and the critically panned Green Lantern.
What makes this film stand out is its subject matter.
Love, Simon is the first major studio-released, teen-orientated film to feature a gay lead character, and its speaking to people.
Set in a typical American high school Simon, played by the wonderfully conflicted Nick Robinson, has a fairly idyllic life; he has good friends, a wealthy liberal family, all in all, his life is unremarkable.
Except he’s gay and no one knows.
In his own words, Nick’s ‘huge ass secret’ becomes more and more of a burden until respite is provided in the form of ‘Blue’, a fellow high school student who has anonymously ‘come out’ via a social media website. The two message constantly, unaware of each other’s identity with Simon calling himself ‘Jaques’. The emails are leaked and Simon is outed before he’s ready, causing tension among his friends, forcing him to tell his family, and losing him his confidant and romantic interest ‘Blue’.
What is remarkable about this film, is that it is the first of its kind to focus on a teenage gay lead character facing the sometimes difficult situation of coming out, with no sinister undertone. He doesn’t have AIDS, nor does he have abusive conservative parents, he isn’t a victim in any way, there is no adversity other than the struggle to come to terms with one’s own sexuality.
That is not to say that Love, Simon is not without a heavy helping of cheese. It’s a Hollywood teenage rom-com that takes all the sentimentality of the coming-of-age model, and puts a new heart into it, resulting in a charming and relatable film.
Audiences are clearly enraptured, with many getting the phrase ‘exhale’ tattooed on them in reference to a speech made by Simon’s mother, played excellently by Jennifer Garner. After Simon is prematurely outed by a fellow student, Garner tells Simon he can ‘exhale now’ and ‘be more you than you have been in a very long time.’
Rupert Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox spent a whopping $17 million on Love Simon. Compared to Brokeback Mountain, $15 or Call Me By Your Name, $3.5m, suggesting that Hollywood might finally be open to relatable stories of normal people, without an Oscar-worthy struggle.