Film review: ‘LOVE, SIMON’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Love, Simon pursues a similar ‘teen outsider’ path to a host of films, from John Hughes 80’s classics to more recent films such as the excellent Perks of Being a Wallflower. The difference here is that it follows a teen’s attempts to come out as gay.

Nick Robinson plays Simon, a highly intelligent high school student who has been concealing his sexuality from friends and family his entire life. Agonising over this socially enforced secrecy, he discovers an outlet when an anonymous gay student posts chat site messages about his anguish at having to hide his sexuality. Communicating under pseudonym’s they develop a relationship but when someone threatens to expose their correspondence, Simon is confronted with a painful moral dilemma.

While Love, Simon has some moving moments this is a much less gritty and complex film than dramas such as Wallflower. It’s a little too squeaky clean and restrained in its mood and visual style. It’s also set in an idealised and slightly unbelievable upper-middle class world where most high school students are remarkably open-minded. Consequently, the drama is at times tepid where it should have been powerful and confronting. Admittedly, this film has an avowed intent of encouraging and empowering young people who, because of their sexuality or other personal characteristics don’t feel they fit with the mainstream, to reveal and revel in their true selves and the filmmakers probably didn’t want to make that process seem to frightening. For older viewers this film will provide useful insights into teen lives and the fact that they live much of them through computers and smartphones.

The film’s tone is also a little inconsistent, for the most part it’s a convincing low-key drama but director Greg Berlanti introduces quirky over-the-top comedy relief in the form of Simon’s drama teacher (Natasha Rothwell) and Vice Principal (Tony Hale) that tends to grate.

The film draws a lot of strength, however, from the excellent performances of its leads. Robinson in particular is terrific and his naturalistic portrayal of Simon makes him a completely believable and nuanced character. He convinces as a decent guy grappling with a painful dilemma – one that should not be a problem at all. Katherine Langford – who resembles Anna Paquin – is also excellent as Simon’s female confidante. The bigger name actors, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel who play Simon’s parents are, however, mostly relegated to the background.

Love, Simon is a film with a valuable message that occasionally hints at the greatness of teen films past but lacks the necessary grittiness.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Romantic drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Greg Berlanti.

Release date: 22nd Mar 2018.

Running time: 110 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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