It seems as though Love, Simon should have been released years ago, yet here we are. An LGBT friend recently vented to me about how he feels shortchanged by films predominantly about gay characters ‘always ending with someone dying of AIDS’, and he is clearly not alone. Whilst the AIDS crisis is a hugely important topic to cinematically investigate, it has reached the point for many people where they feel LGBT lives can only be looked at through film in terms of tragedy: death, rape, unaccepting parents, political strife, and inevitably HIV. These issues can’t and should not be put to the side, and all the films linked (to varying degrees) have excellently educated straight people on issues they may be unfamiliar with, and allowed people in the LGBT community a voice and a chance to relate to characters they may emotionally need. However, the reinforcement by Hollywood of the idea that no long-term or deep happiness can emerge from being gay is a major issue, which films like Love, Simon are beginning to address.
It can even be argued that the plot of the film would make less sense if other movies like it had already been released: Simon (played by Nick Robinson), a fairly normal, American teenager, is struggling to come out or find other LGBT people to relate to. If the sunny setting of a high school in suburban Atlanta populated by archetypes like the theatre geeks and the teacher who tries a little too hard feel familiar, that’s because they are. However, the care and attention given to each character presented, in both dialogue and performance, elevate the film to such a level that you sympathise with, or at least understand, every individual and their motivations.
An element that personally caused me to smile uncontrollably in my seat was the soundtrack, which can best described as, like the mise-en-scene and characters, warm. The idea to have much of the music be diegetic makes the relationships between characters feel far more intimate, whether they’re depicted bonding over a favourite Beyoncé song in a car ride or sat in the glow of their computer, using a lyric from The Kinks best song (in my opinion) Waterloo Sunset to connect to another lonely classmate.
This brings me to the screenplay, undeniably the tightest aspect of the film. Character interactions feel natural and sweet, with Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger accurately capturing the conversations of teenagers with a witty, heartfelt tone. Much praise has been given to Simon’s mother’s (played by Jennifer Garner) speech in which she has felt him ‘holding his breath’ since he realised his sexuality, and is relieved and proud that he can ‘finally exhale’. This speech summarises what has been needed in mainstream cinema for years: the need for LGBT people to be able to exhale and simply enjoy cinema they can relate to as straight people have been able to for decades.
Love, Simon represents a new marker in LGBT cinema. We can only hope that this will lead to more gentle, warm, and uplifting films like this for POC, trans people, and other underrepresented minority groups who need (amongst many more important things) the simple joy of going to the cinema and feeling not just represented, but loved.