Film & TV LGBT+

BFI Flare 2018: Love, Simon

A light-hearted romantic comedy is as essential to adolescent life as heartbreak and rebellion. Yet, for years, the only romcoms found in the mainstream were dominated by straight characters and their stories.

From the classics, such as ‘When Harry Met Sally’ to the modern features, like ‘Love and Other Drugs’, the number of romcoms out there with a heterosexual romance at their center are too many to name. Despite the occasional few gems, including the delightfully silly ‘D.E.B.S’, romantic comedies featuring LGBTQ+ leads have been few and far between. The ones that have been made are only really known amongst the gay community and have sadly never really been considered ‘major’, in that they were rarely seen by mainstream audiences. Although the past few years have certainly seen an improvement in the distribution of queer cinema, as ‘Carol’, ‘Call Me By Your Name’, and ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ all garnered a huge amount of attention internationally, the theme of these films has largely centered around drama. Most have been heart-rending, sometimes tragic, romantic dramas that have focused little on laughter or lightness. How wonderful it is, then, to finally have a sweet, cheerful romcom that has a gay story at its heart.

Love, Simon’ is the latest, teen-oriented romance to enter our lives and naturally draws comparisons with ‘The Fault in Our Stars’; it is based on a successful young adult novel, has already built a solid fanbase, and boasts a charming cast with a fun, witty script to boot. In many ways, it is no different to any other, fluffy feature aimed at high schoolers. It includes a delightful pop soundtrack, a central group of lovable friends, and a tentative romance that blossoms against the backdrop of the usual, teenage worries. It is exactly this, this sense of familiarity, of the typical traits of an innocent romance, that makes ‘Love, Simon’ so great. There is no tragedy to be found here, nothing to tax us emotionally, only the story of a teenage boy in his attempt to find love and navigate young life.

The titular Simon (Nick Robinson) is an instantly likable protagonist; a kind-natured, funny, and wholly empathetic seventeen-year-old whose life is largely, in his own words, normal. He has loving parents (including a Jennifer Garner so lovely you’ll wish she was your mom, too), loyal friends, and is as interested in music and iced coffee as any other teenager. The only thing, however, is that Simon is keeping something to himself and has been for a while. He is gay and isn’t entirely sure how to tell anyone. Here, the story truly begins as both a love interest and a looming threat step into the picture, and Simon must consider his identity and what its revelation will mean for himself and those around him. The film is often funny, as I expected it to be, but what I did not anticipate was the sheer power that its emotional scenes would contain. In one particularly lovely moment, Simon’s mother sits him down for a talk and I found myself allowing tears to fall freely as she tells him that he is finally able to exhale; a scene of total emotional honesty, which I am sure has affected many others as deeply as it affected me, and which both breaks and mends the heart in equal measure. It is scenes such as these, in which the reality of growing up gay, of having to hide an essential part of oneself for so long is made clear, that ‘Love, Simon’ truly shines and becomes more than just a simple romantic comedy.

Warm, funny, and tender, Love, Simon is the sweet kind of teen movie that LGBTQ+ audiences have waited years for. It is whole-hearted and will surely become a game-changer for queer cinema, as major filmmakers, production companies, and distributors finally begin to realise just how much we have been crying out for a movie like this.

By Hannah Ryan / @_hannahryan