Love, Simon is a film about a gay man coming out, an important and delicate issue. It is a brave film considering that openly gay films are, still, shockingly rare. The film is about Simon, a final year high-school student whose life, aside from one big secret, is all wholly unremarkable. The secret, of course, is that he is gay. The film, which is a painfully long at 1 hour and 50 minutes, charts the course of Simon’s struggle for identity. Simon reaches out, anonymously, to another gay person, who feels trapped in his closeted life, through e-mail and the school’s anonymous secrets site. The plot focuses on Simon’s struggle to come out and his search for his anonymous love. All this is very admirable, and with a happy ending, the film is all geared up to be an excellent teen RomCom with a good moral. The film runs like your typical hetero teen RomCom with all the requisite cringing embarrassment and ‘he loves me/he loves me not’ angst. It is also a woefully awful film.
There are several issues with Love, Simon, but most pressing is the plot. Whilst the Simon’s struggle for identity, and angst over whether to come out or wait till college, is at times poignant and realistic, the method of delivery is substantially lacking. In some of the worst plot development in memory, Martin, a desperate and creep loser, blackmails Simon to help him get closer to one of Simon’s friends, Abby. Simon is blackmailed through Martin’s knowledge, and subsequent screenshotting, of Simon’s romantic emails. This part of the plot, which almost entirely takes up acts 1 and 2 and is the reason for Simon’s coming out in act 3, is, at best, lazy, tiresome and distracting; the movie would be remarkably better without it. However, it is in Simon’s reaction to this blackmailing which is so painful. Simon remarks, early on in the film, that he has 4 excellent friends, which is true, and yet, he cannot bring himself to come out to them. This, of course, is an inherent fear for many who come-out, and, as Simon remarks later in the film, the act of putting your true self on show to the world is terrifying because: ‘what if the world doesn’t like you.’ Simon is perfectly normal in his fear of coming out to his friends, but he cruelly and haphazardly plays his friends off on each other in a series of ever more Byzantine romantic pairings all in a ludicrous attempt to sate his blackmailer’s desires. This would be perfectly fine if it weren’t for the completely obvious fact that Simon’s homosexuality would be accepted by all his friends; at one point, Simon comes-out to his newest friend, a brave and compelling moment wherein he learns she has no issue with him being gay. In fact, it isn’t even a surprise. Upon learning this, then, why does Simon not come-out to his other 2 friends? There is no attempt to explain this. In fact, it is completely unaddressed, and this one friend spends the rest of the film, including the catastrophic implosion in the 3rd act wherein Simon’s e-mails are revealed, saying or doing nothing; furthermore, she makes no attempt to reason with their friends when they feel betrayed by Simon’s Byzantine matchmaking attempts.
Furthermore, the film, which aims to convey an air of optimism, is so intrinsically pessimistic about human character. Characters seem to lack the basic attributes of humanity and I would be extremely surprised if any of the writers or directors had ever met a real human; perhaps the conspiracies about lizard-people running our governments and our entertainment industries are true. Simon, for example, feels no qualms in playing his friends off on against each other; he acts selfishly and rashly, not once trying to work out his issues with them. Furthermore, if he is actually committed to ending the blackmail, by making Martin’s desire to get with Abby come to fruition, which it seems is the case, then it would make sense for him to think his actions through to achieve this. However, he does not, and at the end says the is sorry for what has happened to his friends, which makes it seem like he didn’t want the blackmail to succeed. Thus we are left with two conflicting Simons. The one the film wants us to see, a good person who is trapped in a problematic issue, and the selfish one who is willing to play his friends off against one another. The issue is not with these characterisations, both are plausible and believable, but that the film doesn’t tell us about Simon’s thoughts about any of this. In fact, for a part of the plot the is basically the majority of the whole film, it is woefully quiet on our protagonists intentions, thus leaving us fully in the dark about his character. Simon becomes a mere ‘everyman’, turning a possibly excellent character into a mere vessel within a morality play.
The film does, however, have some wonderfully poignant and touching moments. For example, when Simon reveals to his parents he is gay, his father takes it poorly (which is fitting considering his often boorish and flippant comments, calling T.V. stars ‘fruity’ etc.). However, in a touching reconciliation his father states he should have known, regretting his lack of involvement into his son’s life and his inability to foster an atmosphere where important and delicate emotional discussions can take place. This and the on-going secret anonymous relationship between the two boys are the highlights of the film.
Love, Simon, is not a good film. Its plot is shaky and often unnecessary, its characters underdeveloped in critical ways and its overall raison d’etre is muddled – questions of whether it is a RomCom or bildungsroman are not answered. However, it is a film with good moments and is a film that delivers an important message with an openly gay and visible protagonist, and that, at least, is a start.