Humorous, heartbreaking, but most importantly human.
"Love, Simon" is a high school comedy just like any other, until it completely subverted all my expectations and turned me into a gooey pile of tears and joy. The first half of this movie is something that you've seen before. A charming, funny, and well made high school comedy with all the things you'd expect from that. Relationship drama/comedy, parties, theatre jokes (obviously), bullies, and a clique of friends. It's all in here and it's all done incredibly well by director Greg Berlanti (of CW fame) who makes everything feel authentic and snappy during the film's opening half.
While there may be flashes of the humanity, drama, and emotion in the first half, it doesn't truly reveal itself until the second half. That's when this movie uses the fact that it conditioned me to it's normal structure and the cliches (which are pretty present in the first half) to completely flip the table on me in the best way possible. The emotion and drama that this film builds during its first half explodes and really hit me. I was so invested in Simon's life and his idea of what he wanted to do with himself that to see his mistakes and secrets laid bare for everyone to see hurt me. But it was also incredibly inspiring to see how the good people in his life brought joy and comfort to him when they could have easily turned away and shunned him. "Love, Simon" may dabble in non-acceptance for one scene (which is quickly resolved by a fiery speech from a teacher played incredibly by Natasha Rothwell) but all in all this is a story of kindness and acceptance. Like the previously mentioned scene there are some other emotional beats that left me in tears that I didn't think this movie would even come close to producing (specifically the pair of scenes where Simon talks to his parents about his sexuality, I wont spoil them but they are beautiful and unexpected).
To see Simon go from being completely dejected by events that transpire to hopeful and happy due to the acceptance of his family, friends, and the community at large is beautiful. It shows in a time where hate speech and fiery rhetoric are looming large in the public conciseness that most people are kind, compassionate creatures. Which leads into another thing the film does so well, character. Everyone feels so human and real, most of the characters have wants and needs that you can relate to and understand. Even the film's "villain" isn't a 1 dimensional douche or bully, which often happens in these kinds of films. This is also aided by the capable and immensely charming performances in the film. Whether it's Nick Robinson's Simon who you can't help but love and root for no matter what he does (stay away from Jurassic World and do more of this please, Nick). Or the equally charming supporting cast which includes Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford, Tony Hale, and Alexandra Shipp who light up the screen.
It also showed me how ready and willing the general audience is for these kinds of movies, during a scene in the finale people began clapping with pure energy and exuberance at one of Simon's triumphs. This film might lack some nuance at points but it makes up for it in spades with its feel good energy and uniquely dramatic love story (stories). What's even more impressive is that this film is able to retain all of its heart, comedy, drama, and personality inside a studio film. This film is a major step forward for representation in romantic films and film in general.
All of these things combine to form a hilarious, fun, enjoyable, and emotional movie that is well worth your time and attention. While it may still have some of the problems that plague this genre as a whole like cliches, a very neat story, and some shallowness that it can't escape. The film makes up for it with its incredibly sweet moments that work without being cloying or saccharine. It will leave you feeling joyful and hopeful in equal measure. You'll love "Love, Simon" and leave it feeling better about the world and with everything going on on this planet; what more can you ask for? [B+]
Al Pacino Rating: