This is long overdue.
I’m not talking about my review (the movie came out over a month ago), I’m talking about having a good gay love story. Hollywood has lacked gay romance movies that were more than an excuse to get girls to make out on camera. This movie handles it’s love story like everyone is already accepting of gay people, which is so refreshing. The main plot is about being scared to come out, sure, but the film itself isn’t trying to make a statement on whether or not it’s wrong. That’s what makes this movie special.
This review is dedicated to Lydia and Liah, two of the friends I saw this movie with. Sadly, they both died because Nick Robinson is far too attractive to exist. It’s quite sad, but at least their last moments were spent in admiration of this man. And the movie, but mostly the man. Now, I can’t fully relate to just how into the guy they were (I’m still alive, after all), but I was into the movie. Very into it, actually. It’s a lot better than most of its’ contemporaries. Why?
The first thing is one of the most important. It does not treat the audience like they’re stupid. Too often will young adult movies assume that their target audience (teenagers) lack the brain power to follow a plot thread without difficulty, so they’ll have characters explain everything as it’s happening. Instead of making the film easier to follow, all that does is make the film bloated and annoying. This movie actually has a more complicated plot than most other YA movies, and it lets the audience follow the proceedings themselves. Speaking of, let’s get into the plot.
The plot has two main threads: The first follows Simon as he tries to uncover the identity of the anonymous classmate (known as Blue) who he forms a sort of pen-pal like relationship with as they talk about the hardships that come with keeping their sexuality a secret. The second is about Simon struggling to keep his sexuality hidden when a classmate discovers his secret and uses it to blackmail him.
The plot is engaging, and both threads unfold in a way that sometimes had me just as lost as the Simon himself, which is a good thing. The primary plot line revolves around confusion and taking guesses too far, so when I found myself as confused as Simon about the identity of Blue, I was surprised. The movie was really good about its’ delivery of information. It didn’t give you enough to be able to accurately predict the outcome, and it didn’t withhold enough to make you frustrated. This is also due to the movie’s excellent pacing. It didn’t move too fast when it needed to be slow, and it didn’t drag when that would have been inappropriate.
The acting was all great, especially Nick Robinson. It would have been very easy to overdo pretty much everything about Simon’s character, but Robinson shows an amount of restraint that a lot of actors could really use. There’s a moment after something pivotal happens in the plot where it would have been very easy for an actor to look at the script and think to himself “I need to scream for pretty much this entire scene.” While that’s not necessarily the wrong choice, it wouldn’t have fit with Simon’s character. Robinson lets the tension build naturally and effectively through Simon’s attempted restraint until it finally reaches a breaking point, one which results in probably the best use of the one F-word PG-13 movies get that will happen all year.
Everyone else does a great job as well. I wanna point out Katherine Langford, because she did a surprisingly good job considering her acting past. Before this, the highest profile role she had done was in the infamously horrible 13 Reasons Why, a show that I have ranted about far too much to really talk about anymore. One of the things I noticed in that show is that Langford (who played Hannah in the show) was good, but not in the way that the showrunners probably wanted me to think she was. See, I hated Hannah. I thought Langford did a great job of making me hate her, because revenge suicide will never not be the most manipulative and stupid way to get back at someone. Her character was very good at being a nutcase. The show wanted me to sympathize with her. But because of her actions and the way she was portrayed, I could never think she was anything more than a manipulative, catty, insufferable brat. Here, Langford proves that she is good at acting. Very good, in fact. She managed to draw out the one emotion from me that 13 Reasons never could: sympathy.
Speaking of feeling emotions that 13 Reasons could only dream of eliciting from me, this movie made me feel things. I’d say that it warmed my cold dead heart, but I’ve made that joke so many times that I honestly don’t think anyone believes me anymore. This movie fixes a problem that a lot of YA movies leave broken. The problem being lack of real emotion. In most YA movies, the emotional moments are either painfully awkward or stupidly boring. The only YA franchise that I’ve seen really break this trend is Harry Potter, but that movie has a significant advantage in the way that there are eight movies of character development. The reason those emotional moments work so well where others fail is because they took the time to develop their characters into people we care about, which is something that a lot of movies just kinda skip. Love, Simon is not one of those movies. It knows that before the audience can cry, they have to care. And this movie ensures that both happen.
Last time I’m gonna bring up 13 Reasons: this movie accomplishes realistic high schoolers really well. They’re immature kids, but they think they’re way more than just that. They try to handle everything themselves, but know when it’s time to bring it to an adult. They swear, but not enough to make me wish I never existed. They travel through the pitfalls of high school in a way that’s relatable and engaging. If you’re wondering why I brought up that godforsaken TV show again, it’s because that abomination manages to do everything this movie does, except the exact opposite of everything I just said. It’s great to have a high school-set movie that feels like a real high school.
While a great deal of things about this movie are great, there are a couple things that hold it back. The music is fine, but not really memorable enough to stick around. It fits the scene, it serves it’s purpose, and then leaves the brain forever. The cinematography is kind of inconsistent. I could tell what they were going for, and it’s certainly got more effort put into it than your average YA film, but it doesn’t always succeed. Because this is a PG-13 movie, they can’t always have the kids react how they would in real life, resulting in a couple moments that feel stiff.
Aside from that, I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. It’s surprisingly well-done in most every aspect, and while there are a couple things that hold it back, it’s a very good movie. Maybe even great. Yeah. I’m gonna say it’s a great love story.
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