Love, Simon

 

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A film that seeks popular acclaim and deserves to get it.

 
Love, Simon 

Nick Robinson and Katherine Langford

 

When writing about Simon Shore's 1998 movie Get Real I described it as the most important British gay film since Victim in 1961. There had of course, been other gay-themed pictures produced here in between, some of distinction, but I regarded Get Real as truly significant - that was because to my mind it marked the first time that gay issues had been treated in a commercial movie from the UK clearly aimed at attracting a mainstream audience. I mention that film here because the new American rom.com Love, Simon has so much in common with it. Both works centre on a gay teenage schoolboy and do so in a warm-hearted way likely to win audience approval, but there is one difference in that Greg Berlanti's Love, Simon is consciously a genre piece. It may be an adaptation of a young adult novel but on screen it echoes the kind of high school movies that brought fame to the late John Hughes.

 

Making a truly excellent lead actor, Nick Robinson plays a 16-year-old, the Simon of the title, who is not made uneasy by his realisation that he is gay. Nevertheless he is unsure about coming out either to his fellow pupils or to his parents, even though the latter played by Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner are liberal in outlook. However, an e-mail contact puts him in touch with another gay student in much the same situation. They may both adopt false names online to conceal their identity but the sharing of e-mails become a regular source of strength to both of them. Unfortunately, Simon's secret is discovered by a boy (Logan Miller) who blackmails him into helping him to win a girl he clumsily dotes on. Not wanting to be outed in this way, Simon succumbs to carrying out the underhand acts required by this Martin.

 

There's plenty of engaging comedy here including the film's portrayal of a school staging of Cabaret under the supervision of Ms Albright (a fine comic turn from Natasha Rothwell). But the humour never takes away from the serious underlying issues even though the tone is kept comparatively light. At its best Love, Simon contains episodes that are genuinely touching on account of not being overplayed (that includes a scene about the feelings of Simon's best friend Leah (Katherine Langford) who has no idea that he is gay). Given such moments, it is a pity that one later scene involving Simon's mother is less subtle and feels sentimentalised.

 

My only other doubt concerns the emotionally manipulative finale, although this may be a matter of taste. This ending is, I understand, rather different in style from that of the novel but, if I had reservations about it, I must acknowledge that it is entirely true to the genre adopted here. On that basis it could well be that most audiences will approve it wholeheartedly. In any case, whatever one may feel about that, Love, Simon is a very entertaining movie. Viewers at the screening I attended were invited to offer a three-word review: mine would be "Amazingly wide appeal".

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Logan Miller, Jorge Lendeborg Jnr, Tony Hale, Natasha Rothwell, Keiynan Lonsdale, Talitha Bateman, Miles Heizer, Joey Pollari, Clark Moore, Mackenzie Lintz, Cassady McClincy, Robbie Rogers.

 

Dir Greg Berlanti, Pro Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner and Pouya Shahbazian, Screenplay Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, from the novel Simon vs, the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Ph John Guleserian, Pro Des Aaron Osborne, Ed Harry Jierjian, Music Rob Simonsen, Costumes Eric Daman.

  
Fox 2000 Pictures/Temple Hill Entertainment-20th Century Fox.
110 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 6 April 2018. Cert. 12A.