Love, Simon’s powerful nature outweighs its clichéd facade

Chris DiLullo, Managing Editor

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Love, Simon is the ultimate paradox of a film. It’s generic yet simultaneously fresh and innovative, it treads the same ground that films have for years but also is a trailblazing effort that is unique and important. In a way, the movie’s most devastating weakness may be what makes it such a special product from filmmaker Greg Berlanti.

Berlanti, the producer behind shows from The CW such as The Flash and Arrow, returns to cinemas with an adaption of Becky Albertalli’s novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, a personal film that delves into the life of a gay teen named Simon, portrayed by Nick Robinson from Jurassic World, and his struggles within his high school and local communities given the secretive status around his sexuality.

As a gay man himself, Berlanti handles the sensitive and emotional material with utmost precision and finesse. With a touch that filmmakers with differing sensibility and personality would miss with possibly harmful or offensive consequences, the director handles the material with high levels of success, developing a tale that works as a genre film on many levels while also across several genres. However, this doesn’t resolve the ultimate paradox that vexes the film overall.

Love, Simon, generally, is both a coming-of-age film and a romantic comedy. Because of this, the film does feel clichéd in many instances and ultimately leaves a Disney storybook feeling with its audiences. This isn’t necessarily bad; humans deserve to be happy and enjoy the fantasy world of a film for several hours. Unfortunately, these characteristics detract from the work as a whole and make it feel less genuine and significant.

Conversely, the film is, despite these clichés and tropes, trailblazing and breaks new ground by dealing with every trope and cliché from the perspective of a gay male teen, something that has never been put on the screen in such a manner before. Thus, the film is ultimately a self-perpetuated contradiction when its most generic components are simultaneously some of its most effective and important ones.

Ultimately, as a viewer, I could accept the sugary-sweet nature of the film and see the beauty of the moments despite their flaws, yet it is up to the individual to decide whether they can do this or not, which will ultimately influence how they see the picture.

Beyond the film’s paradoxical nature, Love, Simon is a moving cinematic work. Written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, two of the writers of NBC’s award-winning drama This Is Us, it comes as no surprise that the film is incredibly emotional and succeeds wildly when investigating and capturing the complex sentiments that follow Simon through his journey in the movie. Just as the aforementioned television program is, Love, Simon is an emotional rollercoaster and develops genuine feelings within the audience that aren’t momentary; it isn’t a film that one forgets about immediately after, it’s a cinematic product that will follow the viewer around and develop new perspectives for them on the world around them and who they are as a person.

Simon, throughout his journey, is also surrounded by his group of friends, his family, and the other miscellaneous cast of characters that permeate each high school-centered film. While the film doesn’t quite capture the true high school environment, it comes fairly close whilst developing real, relatable interactions amongst the characters. They’re relatable and you genuinely care about their well-being as individuals, albeit some more so than others, this to no fault of the film itself. Each audience member can find someone to connect to on some level, and that’s a special component to discover within a film, but it simply renders some characters less significant to the viewer in comparison to others.

Love, Simon isn’t without its flaws given its clichéd nature and the generic feel it presents in some manners. However, beyond these criticisms of the film’s facade, it’s a moving and powerful work of art that hopefully represents the launching point for a more diverse and representative movement within the film industry.