by George Wolf
Some of the most tired young adult cliches – narration, idealized characters, the dreaded climactic essay reading – show up in Love, Simon.
So why is it such a winner?
Heart, smarts, and humor for starters. But it’s also the rare movie that earns points just for being here in the YA crowd, and for rightly assuming there’s no reason it shouldn’t be.
Simon (Nick Robinson) is an upper middle class high schooler in Georgia, with some awesome friends (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), awesome parents (Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel) and a big gay secret.
But then another kid at school comes out anonymously online, which leads Simon to adopt a fake name and reach out by email. So while much of the student body is guessing who the “secret gay kid” might be, two online pen pals bond over the uncertainties of being themselves.
Director Greg Berlanti (Life as We Know It) keeps the film moving, wrapping it with a clean, welcoming shine that would be just too peachy-keen if not for the smartly self-aware script from veteran TV writers Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker.
Adapting Becky Albertalli’s novel, the duo delivers some solid laughs (don’t mess with the drama teacher!), but more importantly, a knowing vibe that refuses to wallow in self-absorbed teen angst. Current events have reminded us that many teens are more than ready to meet harsh challenges with strength and wisdom, and Love, Simon gives them some refreshing credit.
It can’t go unnoticed that the film treats homophobic taunting as more mischievous than dangerous, but even that misstep feels ironically right. Everything about Love, Simon, from the casting to the set design, is effortlessly likable and comfortable, feeding the notion that this is nothing more or less than another teen romance.
It becomes a sweet, entertaining one, and it just might make some audience members feel a little less alone.
That makes Simon pretty easy to love.