Love, Simon (2018) based on the book “Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda” (by Becky Albertalli) is a teen LGBTQ+ rom-com with themes of longing to find others with similar struggles, and ultimately is a story of acceptance of identity from those around you, and most importantly, from yourself.
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), as he affirms, is your average senior in high school living an ordinary life surrounded by friends and family he holds healthy relationships with. The one catch: he is gay and hasn’t come out to anyone despite acknowledging he knows most of the people around him would take it well. It’s only when another student from his school confesses online to being gay under the faux name Blue that Simon take a leap of faith to reach out to him, and confide his own closeting. He does this under his fake name, “Jaques”, and the two converse for a time getting to know each other better and developing feelings for one another, taking solace in each other's company as they are the only ones they can talk to about being gay. It’s only when the character of Martin Addison (Logan Miller) finds out Simon is gay from reading the emails he shared with Blue left open on a school computer that things take a turn. Martin then blackmails him in order to get closer to Simon’s friend Abby Suso (Alexandra Shipp), leading Simon to manipulate her and the rest of his friend group in order to keep him from being outed.
Simon's character carries a strong sense of relatability. The feelings he expresses are nearly universal with the anxiety he has at first communicating with Blue, his rewording of messages he chooses to send him, the constant checking of his phone to see if he has messaged. Even for a viewer who isn’t gay, these are feelings that transcend orientation. Likewise, the panic we see when Simon is confronted by Martin knowing he’s gay, and then when he’s finally outed is heart-wrenching. While maybe not the majority of people have experienced that exact scenario, it’s likely we’ve all had a moment in our lives where we panicked about sensitive information being exposed, especially in high school.
Aside from dealing with being outed hung over his head, Simon speculates just exactly who Blue's true identity could be. One of the first people he suspects is Bram Greenfeld (Keiynan Lonsdale). Ultimately it’s revealed that he is in fact the individual behind the persona of Blue, although there are some red herrings along the way, keeping Simon (and by extension the viewers) guessing, so the reveal is unexpected, although teased.
Aspects that work well for the narrative are how accepting the friends and family of Simon are once he is out. Particularly the scenes with Simon’s friend Abby and his parents are particularly wholesome, especially how his dad apologizes for the passing homophobic jokes he’s made over the years and affirms heavily to his son that he loves him and is proud. In general Simon’s connections are very healthy and uplifting, as his friends seemingly forgive Simon for his deceit and support him after being outed and his last effort to find Blue. Simon also has encouraging moments of standing up for himself such as in the scenes of confronting the bullies who openly mock him and another student for being gay, correcting the vice-principal's assumption that he and the student mentioned are in a relationship (just because they both happen to be gay), and how he rightfully calls out Martin on his horribly problematic behavior outing him. Simon angrily explains to him, “Look, you don’t get to decide that! I’m supposed to be the one that decides when, and where, and how, and who knows, and how I get to say it, that’s supposed to be my thing, and you took that away from me!”
As for aspects that didn’t quite make the mark, Martin never really has any consequences dealt to him for his actions. Sure, Simon chews him out, but besides that, not much else happens in terms of reprimanding, which feels a little unsatisfying. Another detail that seemed counterproductive is Simon’s attitude towards femininity and gayness. Simon makes little comments about the more flamboyant, openly gay student (that he was mistaken for dating earlier) Ethan (Clark Moore). An instance of this is towards the beginning of the film where Ethan is being bullied for being gay, causing Simon to comment to his friends, “I wish Ethan wouldn’t make it so easy for them.” Besides the tone he takes toward Ethan in this scene, there is another scene where he imagines coming out while in college, and there’s choreographed dancing and music and at the end of the daydream he says, “Yeah, maybe not that gay.” One could potentially read this as internalized homophobia, and it never gets identified as so, and rather is treated as a cheeky little joke to the viewers.
Love, Simon is ultimately a feel-good rom-com with a relatable characterization that really makes you empathize with what Simon is going through. Its representation of gayness is down-to-earth and realistic, so Simon doesn’t feel like a caricature. Although most of the plot revolves around him being gay, that’s not the entirety of his personality in the narrative. He is loving to those around him, clever, funny, and brave; he comes off less of a “gay character” and more of a character that happens to be gay, plot aside. Racially the film is decently diverse, with a couple of Simon’s friends and even his main love interest being people of color.