At first glance, you might not think that gay director Greg Berlanti’s 2018 gay rom-com(ing out movie) Love, Simon (Fox 2000) has much in common with the Oscar-nominated 2017 gay rom-dram Call Me By Your Name, but you’d be wrong. First of all, both films are based on novels. Love, Simon is based on Becky Albertalli’s 2015 YA novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda while Call Me By Your Name is based on the 2007 novel by André Aciman. Additionally, both novelists are, as it turns out, straight.
Just wait, there’s more. Simon and Elio, the lead characters in each movie, are 17 years old. They are both sexually awkward and coming to terms with their gay feelings. They also have parents that, ultimately, embrace and support them. In the case of Simon (Nick Robinson), his valedictorian mom Emily (Jennifer Garner), who is now a therapist, and his former quarterback dad Jack (Josh Duhamel), have made a loving home for him and his kitchen whiz kid sister Nora (Talitha Bateman) in suburban Atlanta.
So, where’s the conflict? It’s 2018, there are 208 days left until graduation, and Simon is in the closet! Not that there aren’t other gay kids at his high school. But watching gay classmate Ethan (Clark Moore) being relentlessly bullied and harassed by some of the jocks makes Simon visibly uncomfortable. You can see him cringing. Also, initially unaware of Simon’s sexuality, his father Jack tends to make insensitive remarks.
As for his social circle, including longtime best friends Leah (Katherine Langford) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr), as well as Abby (Alexandra Shipp), they are among the generation for whom being gay is a non-issue. But that doesn’t make it any easier for Simon.
Things take an interesting turn when Simon begins communicating anonymously via email with a fellow classmate, going by the handle Blue, who comes out in a blog post. It sets the stage for Simon’s imaginative sleuthing to try to determine which one of his classmates Blue might be.
Unfortunately, their correspondence is discovered on a school library computer by the obnoxious Martin (Logan Miller) who quickly becomes Simon’s nemesis when he begins to blackmail him. This leads to several awkward situations, eventually resulting in a blow-up that could cost Simon everything.
Love, Simon strikes a nice balance between the rom and the com, and even adds a powerful dramatic dimension (bring tissue if you are prone to tears). The performances, especially those by Robinson, Garner, Langford, Shipp, and even Duhamel, are solid and believable. As teacher Ms. Albright, scene-stealer Natasha Rathwell brings an abundance of comic relief.
Blu-ray / DVD / Digital special features include audio commentary by Berlanti, co-screenwriter Isaac Aptaker, and producer Isaac Klausner, deleted scenes, photo gallery, and featurettes, including “The Adaptation.” Rating: B-plus.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of Fifty Degrees (Seven Kitchens, 2016), selected by Ching-In Chen as co-winner of the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. Other books by Shapiro include the short story collections How to Whistle (Lethe Press, 2016) and Lincoln Avenue (Squares and Rebels Press, 2014), the chapbook GREGG SHAPIRO: 77 (Souvenir Spoon Press, 2012), and the poetry collection Protection (Gival Press, 2008).
He has work forthcoming in the anthology Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos (Anhinga Press, 2018). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBT and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.