The 400-Word Review: Love, Simon
By Sean Collier
March 20, 2018
The achievement of Love, Simon is not simply its emotional depth. We’ve come to expect deep and intense pathos from teen dramas — The Spectacular Now, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Way Way Back — in recent years. All those young-adult fiction writers are onto something; rob adults of their jaded distance and self-denial, and you get teenagers willing and ready to have big feelings on big subjects.
So the fact that Love, Simon is moving and heartfelt — and it very much is — is not the surprise. The miracle of this film is the complexity and reality of the world it creates, a late-adolescent environment of fear, uncertainty, loyalty and love. Even better teen dramas often err on the side of simplicity in their movements; Love, Simon is unflinchingly complex.
Simon (Nick Robinson) is coasting easily through his senior year of high school; he is not popular enough for scrutiny but generally well-liked to the point of having no social challenges beyond his desire to keep his homosexuality quiet until he makes it to college. When a classmate anonymously posts about his own struggle with sexuality on a school message board, Simon responds under a false name and begins a correspondence.
An awkward, hopelessly goofy classmate (Logan Miller) discovers the telltale emails and engages in some light blackmail: He’ll keep Simon’s secret, but Simon needs to help him woo Abby (Alexandra Shipp), one of Simon’s closest friends.
It seems like a broad plot device, but by the film’s conclusion, there are no villains and no heroes; there are merely young adults trying desperately to balance factors they’re ill-equipped to handle. Many films depict teenagers as sage masters of social entanglements; Love, Simon portrays them as they are, overwhelmed by and unprepared for the gravity of the world, making mistakes and trying desperately to atone for them.
Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger’s deft adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s novel add filmic moments and qualities without ever flirting with cliche (well, there’s a big scene on a Ferris wheel, but it’s too great to criticize). Director Greg Berlanti, a veteran of teen tales dating back to “Dawson’s Creek,” gets excellent work from his young cast, who constantly walk the tightrope that separates vulnerability and melodrama.
If you don’t get teary-eyed in the final moments of Love, Simon, consult a medical professional. Few films are as easily affecting and relatable.
My Rating: 9/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark