It is difficult for me to imagine what it is like to be a modern teenager. All of us “old people” tend to say the same thing about the generations that come after us, but with the proliferation of information that kids have access to these days is nothing short of incredible. Concepts and principles that took us years to truly understand seemingly are ingrained in their lives before they are even old enough to walk to the bus stop on their own. This forces them to sometimes have to face more adult issues at a younger age, and this is one of the prevalent themes of Greg Berlanti’s latest film, “Love, Simon”.
Nick Robinson (who seems to be getting more and more high profile gigs) plays the title character, who is entering his senior year in high school. As the opening narrative states, he lives in a normal neighborhood in a normal town. He has the classic nuclear family of parents still together and a younger sister that get along famously. He has a group of best friends that have seen each other through thick and thin. While they all deal with things like pep rallies and where their future leads, Simon is also dealing with the fact that he is gay and has not come out to anyone yet. After an anonymous post is put on the school’s message board from someone in his same predicament, they begin an online conversation under pseudonyms as they try to come to grips with their issues together. All the while, Simon is dealing with another who finds out and threatens to out him unless he engages in a matchmaking scheme that could tear Simon’s circle apart.
With the right amount of emotion and humor, “Love, Simon” is a film that is about more than just a kid coping with how to tell his loved ones that he is gay. If the subject matter is one that turns you off, I would challenge that thought process and see the more universal themes that this film represents. At its core, it is just as much about growing into one’s identity from any angle just as much as it is about homosexuality. There was an LGBT group that attended the screening that I attended that raved over how much they enjoyed it, but the people that I know that were there that are not part of that community talked about how they enjoyed it just as much for the same reasons applied to different arenas. This film really does play well to its core story by being unapologetic and without being as in-your-face as many will think it will be.
And part of how this works rests on its cast, which delivers beautifully. Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner play Simon’s parents, and their chemistry shines through both with each other and with Robinson as the story unfolds. Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg, Jr. compliment him as his “inner circle” that both gets him and really does not at the same time, while Tony Hale is great comic relief as the vice principal that thinks he is one of the gang as does Natasha Rothwell as their drama teacher, trying to put on “Cabaret” with what could be the biggest band of misfits a teacher could coach.
It all works together in this wonderful collage of characters to form a story that has the best potential to stand the test of time and create a forum for families everywhere to talk together about issues of acceptance, fear, and just being okay with who your heart and head tell you that you are. Take the time to watch “Love, Simon” with those YOU love!