On first approach Love, Simon appears to be little more then a sweet, slight teen film. Stylistically there isn't a great deal here to set this film apart from other recent teen comedies (Easy A, The Duff, The Edge of Seventeen). It's crisply shot, soundtracked to some effortlessly cool indie tunes, and even has the obligatory musical number at the midpoint. And yet it deals with powerful themes, gaining an unexpected resonance, particularly in its second half, and carves a place in cinematic history.
The Simon of the title is a popular teen who has everything going for him. His parents are supportive and happily married, his friends are great, and he is well liked in a very stable school environment. But he has a secret: he's gay and hasn't told anyone. Yet when he begins an online correspondence with another boy whose identity remains a mystery, Simon begins to explore and process who he is.
It feels strange that it has taken cinema so long to catch up to the reality that some teens are gay. And yet I'm glad it was Love, Simon that came along to tell this necessary story. As the film blossoms and develops it builds into a second half packed with emotional kicks. The first half has a fun mystery wrapped around it as Simon tries to work out who he is talking to. But the second half strips this element away, exploring the impact of who Simon is.
This is all aided by a central performance from Nick Robinson (not that one), who is both approachable and fascinatingly repressed in his mannerisms. A great teen film needs a strong centre, and Robinson offers that. There are some fabulous supporting turns in this film too. Jennifer Garner, as Simon's mum, reminds audiences that she should be in more films, giving a third act speech that rivals Michael Stuhlbarg's in Call Me By Your Name. Josh Duhmael is also great as Simon's dad, and there are a trio of funny, engaging turns from Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Simon's trio of friends. Also props to Natasha Rothwell, as one of the school's teachers, who steals heaps of laughs.
For all its crisp exterior, Love, Simon isn't afraid to show the messiness of telling the world who you are. There are moments that are so raw and painful to watch that many in the audience will be moved to tears. I certainly was, dabbing my eyes a number of times. Director Greg Berlanti, who is more experienced at bringing DC characters to the small screen in the likes of Arrow and The Flash, sets himself up as a talent to watch, marshalling Becky Albertalli's novel (the brilliantly titled Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda) into a powerful film. Love, Simon is both a funny teen rom-com and yet more evidence (after the stellar success of Black Panther) that we need a mainstream cinema that finds room to tell everyone's story. The world may be a crazy place, but with films like this one it feels a little bit brighter.