Greg Berlanti, best known for his work as writer and producer on Dawson’s Creek, injects some of that popular television program’s vibes into his latest project, the coming of age love story Love, Simon. Although it focuses on high school senior Simon (Nick Robinson) and his reluctance to come out to his family and friends, this dramedy sports universal themes which audiences of all ages can relate to. Love, Simon is a delightful film that is honest, funny, emotional, and earnest and provides fantastic performances from its young cast.

Love, Simon is based on the Becky Albertalli novel and was adapted by screenwriters Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, both of whom serve as writers and producers on NBC’s This Is Us. Like Berlanti, they used their past experiences to contribute to Love, Simon’s winning formula. Their script stresses the importance of friends and family and juxtaposes it with Simon’s inner conflict.

Simon is a victim of routine and doesn’t want his admission to affect everything that’s going so well in his life. With some narration, we learn Simon has some awesome friends in Leah (Katherine Langford, 13 Reasons Why), Abby (Alexandra Shipp, X-Men: Apocalypse) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Spider-Man: Homecoming); and he is the oldest son within a textbook definition of family, which includes his mother Emily (Jennifer Garner), father Jack (Josh Duhamel) and kid sister Nora (Talitha Bateman). Simon leads the ideal teenage life and with such a strong support structure around him you would think it’d be easy to open up about his orientation.

But Simon, like many teens, feels alone since he doesn’t know anyone who’s gay, outside of his flamboyant classmate Ethan (Clark Moore). Simon is desperate for a support structure consisting of other gay teens, and almost by chance he finds it with an online pen pal, the mysteriously named Blue. Blue is another closeted teen and he attends the same high school as Simon. They begin a relationship based solely on their email exchanges, and by confiding in each other they are inspired to eventually reveal themselves to the world. In the meantime, Simon has to deftly maneuver the typical teenage roadblocks – peer pressure, loyalty, honesty and conviction. Through it all Simon is forced to become an adult amongst his peers - from an audience perspective it’s gratifying and humbling to witness his development.

The best thing to take away from Love, Simon is that although it’s an emotional picture, Berlanti, Aptaker and Berger didn’t get sappy (although they toed the line). There is enough humor to remind audiences this isn’t a total tearjerker, yet the laughs aren’t so over the top that it could take viewers out (unless Tony Hale’s turn as assistant principal Mr. Worth is too much). Berlanti and company chose to turn Love, Simon into a sort of whodunit as Simon spends most of his free time either chatting with Blue or working to discover Blue’s identity. There is a soap-operatic storyline involving Simon, drama student Martin (Logan Miller) and Simon’s closest friends which originally had me questioning its relevance, but when that came to a head it provided plenty of palpable drama.

Interestingly, the parent-child dynamic wasn’t deeply explored, so Garner and Duhamel have little to do. But with it firmly established they’re the most understanding of parents, that foreshadowing led to an emotional scene between Garner and Robinson. With it fresh in my mind, the Garner-Robinson heart-to-heart feels like a similar scene in the Oscar-nominated Call Me by your Name where Michael Stuhlbarg’s Mr. Perlman imparts infinite wisdom to his heartbroken son Elio (Timothée Chalamet).

Although it likely won’t be an Oscar contender like the aforementioned Call Me by Your Name and Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight, Love, Simon is a delightful feature which confidently and maturely deals with life, love and homosexuality. It toes the line between melodrama and rom-com, but its honest look at the pressures teens endure before coming out provides balance and makes for an entertaining and moving feature which should win the hearts of many.

4 stars out of 5


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