LGBTQ representation in film has gained more traction in the last several years with movies such as “Carol” (2015), “Moonlight” (2016) and most recently, “Call Me By Your Name” (2017). The new film “Love, Simon,” directed by gay director Greg Berlanti (“Green Lantern”), centers around a gay teen’s budding romance.
“Love, Simon” is based off the young-adult novel, “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” written by Becky Albertalli.
Although he isn’t out as gay, Simon corresponds via email with an anonymous closeted student at his school called “Blue.” The two boys grow close, become flirty and eventually fall in love. Martin, a student at Simon’s school, discovers these emails and threatens to blackmail Simon by sharing them with the student body.
To prevent being outed, Simon has to help set Martin up with his friend, Abby. The rest of the movie navigates complications with this scheme and brings readers along the mystery of finding out who “Blue” is.
Similar to the book, the movie plays into old cliches for young adult films. The movie opens with Simon (Nick Robinson) narrating the fact he’s a typical guy with a typical family and a secret. Secondary characters, such as the school’s vice principal and theater teacher, come off as one-note archetypes.
“Love, Simon” also strays from some plot points within the book, but most are negligible. Other plot points are completely different from the novel, but they don’t skew the ending drastically.
Film adaptations are often viewed by some critics as being worse than the original text. In the case of “Love, Simon,” the book is better for the most part. A large part of Simon’s journey is figuring out who “Blue” is, and the book does a good job drawing readers into Simon’s thought process to figure out “Blue’s” identity. In the novel, “Blue” plays along with Simon and gives him hints about who he is, and their relationship has readers guessing too.
The movie speculates about “Blue’s” identity too, but it feels rushed and not as compelling as Albertalli’s writing. Reading the emails in the book feels more natural to readers than hearing actors narrate them on screen.
Despite this, “Love, Simon” is more emotionally striking than “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.” Once Simon is outed to the student body by Martin, he comes out to his family and is ultimately accepted. Although acceptance isn’t always part of some people’s experiences, the movie handles Simon’s emotional response in a way that resonates with many viewers.
“Love, Simon” is cliche, and the romantic scenes are often too grandiose for their own good. However, having a quirky, young adult movie with a gay romance as its focal point is an important step in representation. Movies focusing on gay romance have become more common, but few are aimed at a younger audience. The teen romance in “Love, Simon” allows young LGBTQ viewers a chance to see themselves in the media.
“Love, Simon” is playing in theaters nationwide.