With Love, Simon the man behind more CW programming than you can shake a stick at brings a fresh, earnest, unbelievably lovely coming-of-age rom-com to the big screen. Yes, Greg Berlanti, the man who keeps the small screen full of the sultry and soapy teens of Riverdale and nearly every young DC hero under the sun, comes back to reality (if a slightly rose-colored version of it) with his new picture. An adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda; Love, Simon follows Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) through his senior year in a high school. It’s a time, that for most, is about reflection and rites of passage. That’s true for Simon too, but for him it’s also a time of staggering decisions. You see, Simon has a secret. He’s gay, and he’s not quite sure how and when to tell all of the most important people in his life. When a classmate discovers Simon’s secret and threatens to out him, a series of events that will change everything is set in motion.
Love, Simon is equal parts love story and journey of self-discovery, and it’s improbably well balanced. Simon, as we meet him, has a great life with great friends (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and a pretty fantastic family (Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel) and a bedroom with sufficient design sensibility and cozy factor to rival a Nancy Myers flick. (Seriously, 10/10, would love a bed/reading nook). He knows who he is, he has great taste in music and his costume game is on point. In other words, Simon isn’t in crisis, he’s in limbo. Trapped between stepping fully into his own as a burgeoning adult and living the life he’s known since he was a child. It’s a familiar situation to what most teens experience in their final weeks and months in high school, but the stakes are heightened. And that, in part, is what makes this film so poignant.
That we get to experience Simon’s love story as we would any other teen romance is what makes it positively electrifying. Nothing here is false, stale or contrite. It’s sweet and awkward and heady and delightful, just like young love should be. Just like young love really is. This movie lives and breathes. The relationships feel lived in and everything from the dialogue to the music selections (hat tip to executive music producer Jack Antonoff) feels of the moment. It’s natural where other pictures might feel forced or out-of-touch, and just glossy enough to provide that sweet, sweet hit of escapism that we all crave when we smell that popcorn-scented air.
If Love, Simon, Lady Bird and Eighth Grade are the new standard in teen films, we may well be entering a renaissance of relevance and resonance that will make those of us well beyond our high school years who are nonetheless sobbing in the theater say “I wish I had movies like this when I was growing up” over and over again. And thank the cinematic Powers That Be for that. If anyone deserves representation and relatability, it’s the youths who have to deal with the slings and arrows of teendom on the daily.