Drawn from Becky Albertalli’s novel (amusingly-titled Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda), this hard-edged character piece from director Greg Berlanti is being promoted as the first major studio pic featuring a gay teenage protagonist, which seems amazing but is indeed true.
Offering lovely performances from the whole ensemble, it’s held together by Nick Robinson’s turn as Simon himself, who doesn’t play cute and isn’t some kind of saint: he’s just an ordinary, flawed, amiable kid with a big secret.
Atlanta teen Simon Spier narrates his life as it is in his final year of high school. He has loving parents (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner as Jack and Emily), a little sister he actually likes (Talitha Bateman as Nora), and a bunch of friends he spends all his time with. They’re an infectiously likeable bunch too, with Leah (Katherine Langford) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) his lifelong pals and Abby (Alexandra Shipp) a more recent inductee to the gang. Berlanti apparently filmed several of the scenes with them all without telling the actors when the camera was on (a Robert Altman trick), and it works well and you really believe they’re a clique of genuine BFFs.
However, Simon’s secret is that he’s gay, something that he properly realised a few years back when he started to have erotic dreams about Daniel Radcliffe (and yes, Warner Brothers were kind enough to let a real Harry Potter poster be used). He doesn’t think that his family would have a problem with it, and the bullies at school are mean but hardly scary, but he still doesn’t know how to break the news to his nearest and dearest, and he wants to do it on his own terms.
There’s also a whole series of social media platforms where he could run into trouble, too. When he starts to communicate with a student codenamed ‘Blue’, who is also gay and afraid to admit it, the two send increasingly intimate messages to each other. Simon is sweetly and amusingly sent into a frenzy as he wonders who around him is his unknown love.
Enter Martin (Logan Miller, good as a bit of a bastard), a theatrical sort who adores Abby and is willing to stoop to blackmail to win her. He’s a character who stretches credibility just a fraction, perhaps, but Miller is fine and chances are you knew someone this awful at high school. Or beyond.
Often funny in a decidedly wry and even dark fashion, this naturally isn’t sexually explicit (like, say, God’s Own Country) but instead proves to be more about the pain and uncertainty of coming-out at a time when young people think they’re so accepting – but aren’t really.