My own coming out is not a story I think of often. Maybe because it felt long and drawn-out, or perhaps because it has never really seemed over. I guess it is a story more of anxiety and stress than rainbows and confetti. And so, it has never seemed a story worth telling or remembering. It was much to my (pleasant) surprise, then, that seeing Love, Simon (2018) felt more like looking in a mirror than watching a cringe-y rom-com. Do not be mistaken, PG-13 kitsch abounds, but as it turns out—that only made it better.
Not long ago, I wrote about Call Me by Your Name’s (2017) emotionally nuanced and artistic portrayal of queer romance. And I will admit, when I decided to see Love, Simon I doubted it would have the skill or depth to resonate with me in an emotional way—but how wrong I was.
Love, Simon seems to simultaneously be and parody a contemporary American high school romance. Adapted from the 2015 novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, it follows Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a closeted senior at Creekwood High, as he navigates coming out, growing up, and moving on when a blackmailer discovers anonymous emails he wrote to another gay classmate. Through this, Simon comes to terms with what being gay might mean for his identity, relationships and future; but also, the understated importance of having autonomy over how and when you choose to share your truth.
Perhaps my affection for this story though comes from its likeness to mine more so than its universality. The film does fall short in ways. It goes to some length to qualify Simon as a masculine, non-stereotype, while relegating an effeminate character of color to comedic relief, and it takes place in an upper class suburb of Atlanta. Yet, I could not fight the genuine appreciation I felt for seeing a gay high school romance celebrated on a big-budget screen. Unlike most contemporary gay stories, this one is stripped of nuance and symbolism and served with simplicity and humor to a younger, (and important) audience. The film reckons with how being in the closet and then coming out during one of the most stressful and changing times of young adulthood, even in communities which on the surface seem progressive and inclusive, can be a fearsome challenge. My hope is that this first cinematic foray into telling gay stories for young adult audiences will inspire more inclusive counterparts. Straight high schoolers and parents of gay high schoolers alike have much to gain from seeing this film; it offers important Sparknotes on what finding and sharing your identity can be like during a suffocatingly judgmental time in a young person’s life.
When I was a senior at a “progressive” private school in the suburbs of New York City, I never even entertained the thought that coming out before graduation was possible or a good idea. I thought it would fundamentally change the way people saw me and that my friends (and former female romantic interests) would feel used and lied to. But as my days left in high school grew short, I, like Simon, became scared of moving on without those I was closest to knowing the real me—or the piece of the real me that I was hiding. And, I knew that the longer I continued to hide such an important part of who I was, the more selfish and distant my actions would seem to the people who cared about me most.
Simon finds this out the hard way, lying and manipulating his closest friends into a precarious web just so that he would not have to admit his truth to them. And, when the truth finally comes out, it isn’t confetti and rainbows—he has no one to talk to, no moment of pride or weight off his chest. Like many young gay people, including myself, he wishes that he could run back to his hiding place. In working tirelessly to hide himself from those around him, he becomes someone else entirely. I remember feeling this way before and after I came out—wondering if it was for this, and not my being gay, that my friends wouldn’t accept me. But luckily, this film is a romantic comedy, and its low moment gives way to a cliché but satisfying end that even choked me up a bit (and I do not cry).
Alex Minton is an actor and writer from Sleepy Hollow, NY. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2017 with a degree in American Studies and has written several short and full-length plays. A pilot, he is currently an Aviation Policy Fellow in New York City. (www.alex-minton.com / Twitter: @bestmidler)
Love, Simon (2018)
Directed by Greg Berlanti
Written by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger
Runtime: 110 min.