‘Love, Simon’ delivers a fresh take on first love
Grade: 3 and a half stars (out of 4)
Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual references, language and teen partying
Running time: 1:50
By Sandy Cohen
AP Entertainment Writer
Some things are universal about being a teenager: The budding sexuality and sense of identity, the dramatic emotions, the profound need for acceptance and confusing inklings of first love.
Countless movies plumb the agony and elation of teen romance, but “Love, Simon” brings fresh perspective to the genre by focusing on an experience unseen in coming-of-age tales: What high-school first love might be like if you’re gay.
This film treats 17-year-old Simon Spier’s quest for love and self-acceptance with the tender, timeless, Hollywood touch of John Hughes: It’s a classic story of a first crush made groundbreaking by centering on a closeted gay kid.
Nick Robinson is Simon, a shaggy-haired high-school senior who describes his life as “totally normal.” He has a loving family and the same clutch group of friends for years. Simon is gay but has kept his sexuality a secret from everyone.
He finally finds an outlet after an anonymous post on the school’s online gossip forum. A student calling himself Blue confesses that he’s gay but hasn’t told anyone, and Simon writes to him, using a pseudonym. They begin an anonymous pen-pal friendship that turns into a deep connection, and Simon starts fantasizing about Blue’s real identity.
He keeps this all this from his friends, who are drawn in classic Hughes tradition: There’s awkward, self-conscious Leah (“13 Reasons Why” star Katherine Langford), who’s been crushing on Simon since they were kids; Abby (Alexandra Shipp), the transfer student and hottest girl in school; and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), a nice-guy athlete who serves as Simon’s heterosexual foil.
Simon’s life starts to unravel when the school’s class clown, Martin (Logan Miller), finds his secret emails. Martin threatens to expose them.
The heart of “Love, Simon” lies in the authenticity of its characters, which were born in psychologist-turned-author Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, adapted by “This Is Us” screenwriters Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, and brought to the screen by director Greg Berlanti.