Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Love, Simon’ is a touching story that will inspire you to breathe

An imperfect, but wonderfully touching performance

20th Century Fox/TNS

20th Century Fox/TNS

By Charlie Turner, Collegian Correspondent

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There comes a moment in just about every teen romantic-comedy where the viewer is tested — it’s a single scene, shot or line of dialogue that will either push the film into clichéd waters, to drown in countless other stories of the same caliber, or allow it to bloom into something far more beautiful. It’s a matter of risk, and “Love, Simon,” a modern-day love story about the drama, pain and joys of being gay, takes many of them. The result, while not as groundbreaking as it may have hoped, is a touching, hilarious and brilliantly inspiring film about loving yourself, no matter who or what you are.

Nick Robinson stars as Simon, a 17-year-old boy who promises he’s just your average high school nobody, gifted with the most ordinary, cliché life you can imagine. However, Simon is holding his breath on one pretty big secret: No one knows that he’s gay. For the past four years, he’s hidden his true feelings out of fear that he won’t be accepted for who he is, and that once he says it out loud, the change will be forever. From there, “Love, Simon” incorporates the power of contentment and how to find yourself even when you didn’t know you were looking.

The title of the film comes from Simon’s virtual relationship with an anonymous pen pal known only as Blue. Blue has recently come out — well, sort of. He did so anonymously, and he’s the only person with whom Simon feels comfortable enough to talk to about his struggles. The two share a virtual bond that begins to shift into an emotional one, which brings a nice twist to the classic “secret admirer” trope that so many romantic-comedies in the past have incorporated. Simon withholds his identity from Blue, referring to himself only as Jacques, and their stories of pain and happiness inspire one another to better their own lives.

The irony of “Love, Simon” is that the titular character can seem to find love for everyone but himself. He’s a natural matchmaker, whether he realizes it or not, and his clueless guidance is as hilarious as it is touching. His love for his friends and family causes him to confuse morals, which leads to some moments of pure selfishness, but other scenes of sacrifice. These moments are what grab ahold of the audience’s heartstrings the most.

While the film may shine due to its execution, it doesn’t resist exaggerating some plots in order to get the emotions flowing. As tensions rise, “Love, Simon” loses its intimacy to moments that feel too fantastical, as some of the direct hostility toward homosexuality, especially in school, just seems to come out of nowhere as a means to push the plot. The film’s exaggeration makes perfect sense for the time we live in, as it ignites a flame to ignorance that is long overdue, but some of it just felt out of place, as though trying to create a spectacle out of misunderstood love.

This will, of course, be different for everyone depending on your connection with the topics being addressed. For me, this took away from the trust and exploration of love at times; while it certainly isn’t a deal breaker, the film doesn’t always choose the perfect colors for its groundbreaking painting.

However, the cast is able to mask some of these points of exaggeration by providing impressive and memorable performances. Robinson carries a constant glare of melancholy that is both sympathetic and full of very understandable angst. He can shift between these emotions like an eye-catching gradient, with his peak of anger and sadness being undeniably genuine and thoughtful.

Following the lead, Josh Duhamel plays Simon’s father, Jack, and connects with his leading co-star in a sympathetic and heartfelt performance. Other characters that feature little backstory help expand the film’s awkward but incredibly relatable humor, which will, at the very least, brighten up your day.

All in all, “Love, Simon” is a touching story about the hardships and internal conflicts one faces when fear of ridicule keeps them from expressing their true self. The film shows that love can exist everywhere and while the final result isn’t perfect, “Love, Simon” is still an immensely enjoyable film that will make you laugh, cry and ultimately question what it means to breathe.

Charlie Turner can be reached at [email protected] and read at CharliesCut.com.

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