In a way, “Love, Simon” is just what you expect — a love story centered around a young, attractive teen in high school. He has a group of three or four friends who he hangs out with constantly and makes corny jokes with, like we see in every teen flick.
But that’s not why you should definitely go see this movie. “Love, Simon” is not your typical romance. Instead of spending the entire movie chasing after a lost love, Simon is chasing love within himself and the people around him in a way that has never been captured on the big screen before. The trailers you have seen surrounding this movie are just a sliver of the actual experience of it. You do not have to be all about love or feelings to truly enjoy this movie — I promise.
After a press screening of the movie, we were able to speak with lead actors Nick Robinson (Simon) and Alexandra Shipp (Abby), as well as the director of the film Greg Berlanti. The people involved with the film obviously worked hard to craft it carefully and keep it realistic. From speaking with them, I could tell they all carried the weight of the story that needed to be told.
Instead of making him the messiah of all young LGBTQ teens, the movie does a good job of making Simon appear as more of your “friend of a friend.” He is not extremely in-the-closet shy, he’s just a casual guy who happens to not sleep with a bunch of girls. Simon’s hoodies of the week and T-shirt-and-jean ensemble don’t give the story away to the audience or to the people in the film.
As proclaimed in the first 10 minutes of the movie, he’s “just like you and me.” Robinson (who’ll be 23 later this month) has always been one of those actors I feel is going to be an even bigger deal in the years to come. His emotional scenes aren’t extreme, which make them easier to identify with. The passion on the screen is what contributed to my tears while watching the film in the theater.
However, those tears were short-lived since the movie makes up for it by being surprisingly laugh-out-loud funny. The assistant principal of the school (played by Tony Hale) does an amazing job of reminding me of how ridiculous my six assistant principals are and how hilarious it is to see it portrayed on screen at another high school. Like the principal, a lot of the humor is completely realistic if you are a high schooler in 2018.
The film also makes you love and hate your generation all at once. Not to spoil the movie for you, but the internet is a big driving force of Simon’s story and how those around him react to himunapologetically becoming who he is. Someone who helps him do this is one of his closest friends, Abby (played by Alexandra Shipp). Having watched Alexandra Shipp in her first few roles (she played Storm in “X-Men: Apocalypse”), this is one of my favorite performances from her. She’s a great wing woman for Nick when it comes to conveying the emotion that’s necessary to keep this film from turning into a cliche’.
Her character, Abby, is all about what it’s like to have to start all over in the middle of your senior year. I especially identified with her character because of how understanding and open she is, and how that ties into Simon’s story. I saw a bit of myself in her in how she seems to always be honest about who she is but also closed off when it comes to things that are emotional to explain.
When interviewing Shipp during a roundtable interview at the St. Regis hotel in Buckhead, her personality was just as warm off-screen as it was on-screen.
“Be true to the essence of what a moment makes you feel.” The film’s director Greg Berlanti said this to us in the interview, and it stuck with me.
It underscores the ground breaking importance of “Love, Simon” having a gay male lead who is someone we can all imagine knowing.
“Love, Simon” is out in theaters now.