[Editor’s Note: Love, Simon is a movie that has been gaining a lot of attention, and rightly so, as you will see in our review of this gaytastic film. But more than writing this review, we want to be able to openly watch it in India. Even though the Indian Netflix watching population was promised a release of the film that teens among others were feverishly holding on for, a last minute cancellation set spirits roaring for a protest. So here’s a review apt for this time: #releaselovesimoninindia]
Directed by: Greg Berlanti
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10
Love, Simon is the cultural phenomenon many have touted as the official beginning of the year lovingly christened, 20gayteen. Phenomenon or not, the movie since its release on 16th March is being applauded as one of the first films with a gay protagonist from a major production house –20th Century Fox.
Directed by Greg Berlanti; Love, Simon is an American rom-com-drama coming of age film about a young boy’s incidental journey out of the closet. Written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, and based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli; the movie stars Nick Robinson in lead as Simon Spier; a 17 year old with doting parents(Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner), strong friendships (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and the general excitement to graduate.
All that changes when someone, who calls themselves ‘Blue’, anonymously comes out as gay on the school’s online message board. Intrigued, in his room but mentally in the closet, Simon finds the spark he’d been looking for and decides to incognito write to Blue himself under the pseudonym, Jacques. The identity of Blue stays a mystery throughout the film, but Simon’s secret is threatened when his classmate Martin (Logan Miller) starts blackmailing him. Reluctantly Simon agrees and tries his best to protect his secret from coming out and changing his entire life.
This becomes the marker for a recurring theme in the movie, that of Simon not wanting to change how his life is currently, which I don’t blame him, his world in the movie is pictured almost unnaturally perfect. A white, cis, straight passing young man of privilege is the ideal life with rare scope or even desire for disruption.
Halfway through the movie it almost felt like his queerness was merely a plot device and hardly a character arc. The focus remained more on ‘the secret that can ruin his life’ than a queer body just trying to find a space to call his own. At one point I was sure if his ‘secret’ was replaced by the fact that he poured milk before putting cereal in, it would probably have had the same effect. The 23 year old lead is straight himself which further does not help the film’s case.
The movie thus, essentially feels like a queer story made for straight people. The opening narration also a part of the trailer is, “I’m just like you, except I have one huge ass secret.” This begs the question; if he’s just like ‘you’ apart from his ‘secret’ of being gay, doesn’t that make the ‘you’ the heterosexual watching the film? Obviously, a movie from a large multi-million-dollar production house is bound to focus more on presumably a mass more mainstream audience.
The redemption though is in the ‘who-could-it-be’ mystery for blue’s real name that plays till the end. The audience along with Simon go through a trial and error mystery with several boys and the real identity is revealed in the final climax which ultimately becomes a happy ending. Another character who deserved more was the out and proud femme-of-colour character, Ethan, who is shown regularly bullied by usual suspects but always seems to shut them down with his wit. Whether Simon wants to be him or avoid him remains ambiguous throughout the film.
Regardless, maybe we put too much at stake for pop-culture meant to represent us. And maybe sometimes it’s adorable fluff, albeit lacking nuance, is what we need from time to time. Most queer storylines pictured on reel are often riddled with heartbreak, suicide, infidelity and pain. Maybe a film that a young LGBT+ adolescent could watch with a parent and get the courage to talk about it later is what has made this the movie we didn’t think we needed but have come to love anyway. Queer writer-director, Xavier Dolan, took to Instagram after the film released to say, “I’ve watched so many LGBTQ films as a kid, desperately looking for answers, locked up in my room…Most of them were brilliant and invigorating for the young artist I wanted to be, but left the young man I was, with little to hope for. ‘Love, Simon,’ in all its earnestness, in all its normalcy, shows the struggle of coming out, but with an inspiring conclusion for teenagers who will see ‘Love, Simon’ because they don’t feel “normal”. Perhaps this will teach them that, even if their life isn’t as privileged as Simon’s, they can make a move.” Or when a twitter user came out with their story of how the movie led to reconciliation with their mother after years of not being accepted out of the closet (see at the end of the article).
For years we have created all sort of genres with hetero-cis plotlines, perhaps Love, Simon proves to be the gateway to mainstreaming the same for queer narratives.
All in all, the 1 hour 50 minutes of the film were a mixed and relaxed bag of occasional laughs and a few tears, right before a sappy ending that made me want to call up my best friend and suggest he watch it immediately.
Final rating: Liked it just enough, Simon.