“You get to exhale now, Simon.”
*This post contains mild spoilers*
Love, Simon is an adaptation of the bestselling novel Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda, written by Becky Albertalli. When I read the book, I instantly fell in love with it and held the story close to my bisexual heart, having related so much to a lot of Simon’s narrative. Naturally, like many readers, I was over the moon to hear that it had been picked up for a movie and secretly prayed that it would eventually make its way onto the big screen. (Given there are many instances of rights being bought and things never happening)
It’s a coming-of-age and, well, coming out story of a gay teenage boy called Simon Spier who is threatened to be outed by a school bully, armed with screenshots of private emails between Simon and the mysterious Blue.
This film is so important for many reasons that you’ve probably already heard about a million times. To be “that adult”, if I’d seen this film when I was a confused 13 year old girl, maybe my own story would be different But anyway, back to the film. I liked that it emphasised that no one comes out once. There’s always going to be friends you have yet to tell, new people in your life and every time is met with the same hesitation; Simon even uses the “I’m still me” line. Every scene is met with the same intake of breath as he waits to hear their response and I felt it so deeply.
I was unsure about Nick Robinson as Simon when the casting was announced, but I didn’t need to worry at all. Simply put: he is Simon. I was completely invested in his portrayal from every little smile when reading his emails, to every laugh and cry. The “that was supposed to be my thing” scene hit me like a ton of bricks. You could just feel the pure rage oozing from the character and the following sequence left me quietly sobbing into my popcorn. Katherine Langford, known for 13 Reasons Why, was another stand out for me. Leah is a quiet force in the overall drama of the story but Katherine managed to capture the essence of her character: feeling lost, overwhelmed with the possibilities open to her. But when she gets her big moment, my god she shines.
I loved the contrast between the first and second halves of the film. The former felt slightly darker and like there was a restraint to Simon and the interactions he had with his friends. As Simon’s mother (played by Jennifer Garner) points out: it feels like he’s holding his breath. In comparison, the latter feels much brighter, Simon smiles more, he feels closer to his family and friends. After his first coming out scene, when he finally lets go of that breath, his character moves in a different direction and it’s beautiful to watch.
I also really like how Blue’s email sequences were littered with a different person each time, alternating with whoever Simon suspected to be Blue based on little things he dissected from the emails. It kept it interesting and tried to give a face to the person behind the emails before it’s eventually revealed.
From an adaptation point of view: it’s solid. The best internal narrative bits of the book are littered in voiceovers and all the major plot points are there. There is a big addition to add more drama to the story but it makes sense in the context of the film. The book is a quiet story, and on screen it needed that extra push to keep viewers interested. I was fascinated to see how the emails would be shown and it’s pretty much like in the book: you’re reading them along with Simon which I thought was a nice touch. You really are following Simon on his journey. I don’t feel that Martin was emphasised as much as he was in the book. One of the main points of his character was that he didn’t know/understand that people cared about other people’s sexualities and the result his actions would have. (Not that it excuses his idiot behaviour) In the film it felt like he very much knew what he was doing and trying to take the heat off himself. Which, I guess in its own way, kind of worked. The essence of Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is in very single frame of this film. If you love the book as much as I did, you’re not going to be disappointed.
However, this film isn’t without its faults. The “trying to be down with the kids” head teacher is a trope that I’ve never been able to get behind in teenage comedies, and in Love, Simon it really took me out of the film. It was just forced humour that didn’t really work and the most hilarious moments happened in a more natural way; they just felt part of the conversation. The beginning is very disjointed, like we’re rushing to establish Simon and his relationships. The film really finds its feet when Simon sends his first email to Blue and after that it’s plain sailing.
The stand out scene for me was Simon and his mother having a heart to heart after he comes out. It’s heartfelt and beautiful and apparently Nick Robinson didn’t know that Jennifer Garner was going to cry as it wasn’t scripted… which then made him cry in the take. But I mean, who wasn’t crying by that point?
The ending fell to some romantic, teenage cliché but you know what? As Jacques a dit: everyone deserves a good love story.