As a teenager, I whiled away many an hour watching high school romcoms with my friends, my mum and by myself – my favourite being The Breakfast Club. I’d laugh, cheer, yell and cry my way through the romanticised secondhand embarrassment of adolescence over and over again… but something was always missing.
“The heteronormativity of every single mainstream romcom available left a lot to be desired”
Though I could relate to Georgia’s anguish over eyebrows in Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Bella’s desperation for fanged romance in Twilight made me weepy without fail (come on, we all loved a bit of Forks), the heteronormativity of every single mainstream romcom available left a lot to be desired. I just could not empathise with the romantic woes of the protagonists — because their stories were not mine.
Enter Love, Simon.
Based on the 2015 novel Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, it is making history as the first ever – yes, ever – major studio-produced high school romcom with a gay protagonist, and taking audiences worldwide by storm. In the first five minutes, we are told by the achingly normal seventeen year old Simon Spier that he is, in fact, just like us.
“He also has a secret, and it’s a biggie”
He has, in his own words, a “perfect” life. Wonderful friends obsessed with iced coffee, loving and liberal parents, annoying-but-adorable little sister, a huge house and his own car – the typical all-American senior. However, he also has a secret, and it’s a biggie. He’s gay. Despite his glaringly too good to be true support system, he is still deeply entrenched within the closet, seeking solace in an anonymous and just as painfully closeted online penfriend known only as Blue.
The film follows Simon’s desperate attempts to keep his secret and navigate the trials and tribulations of teenage life whilst trying to figure out Blue’s real identity, and Nick Robinson perfectly portrays the aching, painful loneliness that ensues when you’re young and struggling with who you are.
“This is certainly not the experience of most LGBTQ teens”
I know this film would have been a godsend for 13 year old me, but it isn’t without its faults; the vomit-inducingly perfect life of rich, white Simon is certainly not the experience of most LGBTQ teens, and not every parent will welcome their child’s coming out with open arms or ‘I wish I’d known sooner’.
The school bullies are at times pathetic and the somewhat irritating subplot involving the school oddball threatening to out Simon can grate at times, but the wit and sharp direction of Greg Berlanti keeps us rooting for a happy ending throughout. Fundamentally, though, the heartwarming usuality of Simon and his love is, in the end, what makes the film so wonderful.
It does not set out to change the world and there are no politically charged or controversial takeaways buried beneath scenes. This is an everyday movie about an everyday love; “I’m just like you”, Simon confesses as the film begins – and, no matter who you are, he is.
Image courtesy of Fox 2000 Pictures and New Leaf Literary and Media.