The definition of "black sheep" according to the dictionary is as follows: a member of a family or group who is regarded as a disgrace to them. Basically, an outcast.
Far too often, homosexuals are regarded as outcasts. At a young age, that can be brutal. It's what our culture does these days. See something unlike themselves and cast her or him aside. Human beings who are made of the same parts as heterosexuals, but prefer a different sex, so they are perceived as being "different.”
For the first time in the history of cinema, the main protagonist of a teen movie is gay. Love, Simon was distributed by 20th Century Fox, a mainstream movie house that opened the film in over 2,000 screens last week. Calling it important wouldn’t do the movie justice; revolutionary is more fitting. Thankfully, the movie is as potent as its message and is also a crowd-pleaser. Love, Simon is one of the sweetest, smartest, and most timely films in quite some time.
While everybody is still fighting over the racial politics of Black Panther, this teen romance comes along and has a clear message: love and acceptance should run hand in hand, because everyone has an identity they wish to protect.
Simon (Nick Robinson) is your ordinary senior in high school. A young and good-looking guy, Simon has a group of close knit friends (including Katherine Langford and Alexandra Shipp), two loving parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel), and an adorable younger sister (Talitha Eliana Bateman) who wants to be a chef and cooks all the family meals, for better or worse. There’s quirk, wit, and lots of smiles in Simon’s life. There’s just one thing. Simon can’t truly be himself, because he’s gay, and no one knows.
Before you roll your eyes and say that’s fluff or not enough to ride a cinematic wave these days, consider the many lives in the LGBT community who have taken their own life before they were 20 years old. These young ladies and gents weren’t killed by another person holding a gun or weapon of some sort. They left Earth because they were afraid people wouldn’t accept them for who they are. In a subtle manner, Love, Simon is tackling that issue head on.
The crutch of the film revolves around an email exchange Simon has with a stranger who also claims to go to the same high school and is a closeted gay soul like Simon. Without knowing who he is, Simon navigates most of the film looking for this person, which creates a fine mystery for the audience to be a part of while the reveal moment awaits.
On the surface, a moviegoer will enjoy this movie as a heartwarming teen romance with some edge to it-and that’s completely fine. If you look deeper, though, director Greg Berlanti and screenwriters Elizabeth Berger and Issac Aptaker are starting a conversation about a timely issue. By placing a seemingly normal kid at their vulnerable subject, the filmmakers want to connect with you and get you talking. The film was adapted from Becky Albertalli’s novel, “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.”
Does Simon get to stand up on top of a lunch room table and tell the school he’s gay? Nope. The reveal is much more realistic and sad. Is there a girl who likes Simon and has to come to terms that he doesn’t swing the bat that way? Sure. Is the film a little familiar and predictable in areas? Yes. A movie can have a few used parts, but if the delivery is unique, the finished product can work.
Before I tell you what I loved about the film, let me thank Berlanti, Berger, Aptaker and Albertalli for taking the time to deliver something timely. Thank you 20th Century Fox for taking the chance. I’d love to know how many studios passed on the material out of the fear of some backlash. Probably the same studio that greenlit useless remakes, reboots, and unwarranted sequels.
I loved the simplistic approach to directing that Berlanti took in telling Simon’s story. He directed a hilarious and underrated comedy starring Duhamel and Katherine Heigl called Life as We Know It in 2010 and lent the same flair to that easy-going tale. Some movies don’t need extra brushes of paint, just a steady hand.
There is a colorful touch to the imagery that reminded me of 500 Days of Summer, while the soundtrack included the underrated band M83 as well as a couple of great Beatles songs. The subtle infusion of music brought the 2012 classic film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower to mind, even if Love, Simon was decisively less edgy.
Robinson, who played the older teen in Jurassic World alongside Chris Pratt, is a talent to keep an eye on. Having the looks and line delivery skills are one thing, but the way he commands the screen in a tough role is a great tool in this film’s shed. You need someone who is lovable but convincing at the same time.
The rest of the cast puts in good, if not entirely memorable, work. Garner and Duhamel’s parents say all the right things in a gorgeously rendered fashion, but each get a great scene towards the end to provide some weight to the role. Tony Hale’s principal provides most of the film’s comedy while Logan Miller’s hopeless romantic Martin has his moments.
This is a film with bold strokes that should enlighten you about the hardships that young teens go through in carving out and being able to live with their born identity. If ten people in each theater walk out wanting to accept homosexuals for who they are, the movie has done its job. You will also laugh, cry and come out of it a better person for having took the time to witness something poignant and courageous.
Love, Simon isn't just a film for movie lovers: it's a film for everyone.