Love, Simon is the perfect high school movie for 2018. At least, I take their word for it that this is what high school is like now. It seems right.
Simon (Nick Robinson) is gay but hasn’t come out yet. When the high school gossip page prints prints an anonymous coming out by Blue, Simon e-mails Blue under the name Jacques.
Small details show how high school is different now. A bench seats five people all texting on their phones. People are taking selfies in the hall and the principal (Tony Hale) has to confiscate phones. Yet it’s not overbearing with technology.
Other details like teenagers mocking bad ‘90s movies remind the Clueless age that it’s someone else’s turn now. Abby (Alexandra Shipp) uses the word figuratively correctly, showing a generation that has corrected their predecessors’ slang.
Teenagers are more fluent about sexuality. There is only one out student (Clark Moore) but everyone’s journey is different, and even he is bullied by A-hole jocks.
The correspondence between Simon and Blue offer teenagers an example of how it can be done. Just because people live in an open society doesn’t mean everyone automatically knows how to express themselves.
Simon’s parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) are a little bit too open about sex, which makes their kids uncomfortable. His dad makes “innocent” gay jokes, but he’s not homophobic. He literally (correct usage) doesn’t know why that would make straight people just as uncomfortable to hear.
Simon has good friends. Besides Abby, there’s his childhood BFF Leah (Katherine Langford) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). You’d imagine all of them would support Simon coming out, but they’re each figuring themselves out at the same time.
So having someone to talk to in a safe place is valuable. And it’s threatened when Martin (Logan Miller) finds Simon’s e-mails on a school computer. Martin blackmails Simon to help him date Abby.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s high school movies, Martin would be the hero who comes up with a crazy scheme. He’d eventually learn to just be himself, but it would work.
Love, Simon has the sense to teach teenagers that Martin’s behavior is wrong. You don’t try to win women by manipulating their friends. Yet it has sympathy for Martin. He’s obnoxious but probably never had a good role model to teach him to respect people’s boundaries.
There’s a persistent mystery as Simon tries to figure out who Blue is, and imagines different characters he meets as potential Blues. It’s a skillful balance of clues and red herrings, all with an emotional underpinning of Simon yearning for a real connection.
There are a few genius moments of Simon imagining comings out that may have come from the book by Becky Albertalli, and are certainly realized for the screen by Greg Berlanti.
Love, Simon is honest about the challenges everyone faces in communicating. Even the most supportive and welcoming people don’t always have the perfect words. Sometimes communicating requires more patience than words.
All of the above make Love, Simon a movie that today’s teenagers will keep referring back to well into adulthood, and share with their friends and future generations.
Love, Simon is in theaters Friday, March 16.