LOVE, SIMON

For interviews with Nick Robinson & Katherine Langford see here

Simon is in high school. He’s your regular run-of-the-mill guy with better than average looks, the perfect family and friends with supporting roles in Marvel movies.

If this is starting to sound like a big studio movie, it is. What doesn’t sound so much like a major studio flick is that Simon (Nick Robinson) is gay and yet to tell anybody, barring an anonymous digital pen-pal who shares his consternations and fears. Deliberating who and how to tell anyone, a small slip-up means that choice might soon be taken away from him.

Coming out narratives being largely a fixture of independent non-major releases as well as Australia’s own Mardi Gras Film Festival, where Love, Simon originally premiered, it’s refreshing to see a story of this nature with such promise for traction in the multiplexes. Too imbued with the not dissimilar yet distinct coming of age vibes emblematic of the John Hughes triumphs of yesteryear, this character-driven, light-hearted drama, if dealing with serious subjects to the great benefit of the film wisely doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Barr it’s central conundrum, Love, Simon treads the well-worn ground of its predecessors in a high school flick that, like it’s protagonist, is roundly familiar and, quintessential to this end, purposefully and widely relatabe. Simon, consequentially not even the most engaging character in his film, in the hands of Robinson is nonetheless an instantly empathetic figure. The feature rarely identifying idiosyncratic traits for a character with whom we spend almost every scene, his few peculiarities, among them his taste in music, hang ill-explained and are seldomly revisited or the subject of any introspection.

By contrast, Australia’s own Katherine Langford of 13 Reasons Why fame, with comparatively shorter screen time and a more defined character, manages to evoke reactions as emotive and memorable as just about anything else. Rising star Alexandra Shipp (Tragedy Girls) is similarly superb, bringing to a life a character at the centre of more than one wretched and unenviable quandary Simon has to face.

Boasting snippets of biting dialogue, blink and you’ll miss Natasha Rothwell as the drama teacher who deftly manages a hearty laugh from almost every line she delivers. Directing the chosen school play, Cabaret, it’s placement in the narrative due to its persisting themes is evidently purposeful, though the presence of this device is never properly explained or addressed, emerging as but one other near obligatory staple that accompanies typical teen dramas. The bland characterisations of the two jacketed jocks, one-dimensional figures when contrasted with almost every other recurring character, is similarly conspicuous in this regard.

Well performed and ultimately moving, Love, Simon nonetheless nails it when it matters and for young and old alike is a flick worth catching.

Love, Simon is in cinemas from March 29