(This story was originally published in InQuire Live)
‘Love, Simon!’ is the film currently on everyone’s lips and why wouldn’t it be? It’s the first gay, teen romance film by a major studio and while that’s amazing, it also feels oddly late. The film follows Simon who is balancing school, family, friends, the fact that he is secretly gay, a blackmailer threatening to out him and a crush he has developed for an anonymous, also closeted, pen pal at his school.
The narrative itself isn’t exactly new. Two individuals falling for each other over identity-less email accounts with the then risk that someone might show the emails to the whole school is reminiscent of ‘A Cinderella Story’ while the online blog all the students look at gets very ‘Gossip Girl’. However, the introduction of an LGBTQ+ relationship into this fairly common narrative allows for some incredible nuanced moments within the film. The audience are offered heart-wrenching emotion with Simon coming to terms with his identity and the fear of it being made public, alongside hilariously funny moments like imagining what it would be like if people had to come out as straight.
Additionally, the film is amazing at giving voice to stories and narratives that are often not heard. The three LGBTQ+ characters in the film each have different experiences with coming out to themselves, friends and family, while those they tell each have a range of reactions and responses. The amazing Jennifer Garner plays the most loveable of characters as the caring and supportive, strong and independent mum that everybody would not only want, but needs. However, undeniably, the stand-out character of the film has to be the drama teacher, played by Natasha Rothwell, who’s ‘I didn’t play an extra in the Lion King to be teaching children’ attitude breaks the tensest of scenes and makes the film much more light-hearted, a necessary addition when dealing with such a serious issue as coming out in a teenage romantic comedy.
Interestingly the only place the film faulters in is the very area it tried to be best at. The film producers wished to spend a large amount of their budget on the music to produce a soundtrack that could stand alone, and viewers would play on repeat. While the soundtrack is great and fits with the teenage, angsty feel to the film, it doesn’t have the gravitas the producers were going for that films like ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ have nailed.
Furthermore there are some questionable moments within the film where the message of being supportive of LGBT+ individuals sometimes gets confused with treating them like a spectacle especially at the ending. Additionally, the rugby player and LGBT+ activist, Alexis Caught, took issue with the fact that “there are so many fantastic, talented, out LGBT actors who are struggling for roles & to break through, and we deserve a chance to tell our own stories”. While his sentiments do bring light to an important issue within Hollywood, Nick Robinson’s portrayal of an individual accepting his sexuality in an unaccepting world is beautifully done and will be extremely relatable to those who have experienced or are experiencing the same.
Overall, Love, Simon is the perfect teen rom-com. Beautiful yet hilarious, it will leave a special place in the viewers heart regardless of sexuality. But for LGBT+ teenagers coming to terms with their identity this will film will be so much more and they will find comfort and solace in the fact that they, like Simon, are very much not alone. Hopefully 20th Century Fox has finally set a precedent for more LGBTQ+ romance led narratives and ‘Love, Simon’ is only just the start.