20th Century Fox

Although on the surface it looks no different than many a mainstream major studio comedy, Love, Simon is almost radical in the sense that it revolves around the everyday life of a gay 17-year-old high school student and doesn’t try to hide that fact on screen or in the marketing materials, which happen to be aimed at teen audiences among others. That kind of subject matter is usually reserved for indie-centric fare like the recent Oscar-winning Call Me By Your Name (also about a 17-year-old teen struggling with sexual identity)and not a PG-13 wide studio release like this one.

It’s very nature suggests we have come a long way. Basically, this is a winning movie that will hit you right in the heart while making you laugh. As I say in my video review above, you are guaranteed to fall in love with this sweet, funny coming-of-age film, a feel-good-about-yourself movie full of universal truths that just might surprise you.

Nick Robinson stars as Simon Spier, your average teenager who comes from a nice all-American suburban family that looks like they just stepped out of a John Hughes film. He hangs out with friends Leah (Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and Abby (Alexandra Shipp). His sister Nora (Talitha Bateman) has her own issues. Parents Jack (Josh Duhamel) and Emily (Jennifer Garner) are loving. There’s only one problem: Simon is gay and no one knows. The movie represents a very human comedy about coming out in order to be true to yourself, and does it in a charming, bright way that just might make this unassuming little film also one with social impact simply for the manner in which it presents Simon’s story.

Actually, Simon covertly spills his secret to a mystery guy with the social media handle “Blue,” who shares his own sexual identity on the school’s gossipy blog site; it impresses Simon to the point where he begins an online relationship with him. There is lots of mileage in Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker’s screen adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s YA book Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (smartly, the filmmakers ditched that title), particularly in Simon’s ongoing guessing game about the real identity of Blue, and it leads to several amusing encounters with various prospects — even throwing a McGuffin into the mix like any good mystery should. There’s even a (500) Days of Summer-style musical dance number thrown in as Simon imagines an easier time of it in college, to the tune of Whitney Houston’s “I Want To Dance With Somebody.”

Like another recent and wonderful coming-of-age flick Lady Bird, this film also has fun with drama classes, particularly with the beleaguered teacher played to the hilt by Natasha Rothwell. Things get really complicated when another student, gawky Martin (Logan Miller), discovers Simon’s secret and threatens to out him unless he fixes him up with Abby, a development that makes things awkward in the tight circle of friends (especially with BFF Nick, who also has the hots for her). Among others in the fine supporting cast are Tony Hale as the vice principal and Keiynan Lonsdale as yet another student who figures into the plot. Garner is always a warm presence in these films, while Duhamel lands a bit on the goofy but likable side as the macho dad. Robinson nails the role with natural hangdog looks and an appealing personality that can’t help but make the audience root for his eventual happiness.

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Greg Berlanti, director of films Life as We Know It and The Broken Hearts Club (and producer of numerous TV hits including Dawson’s Creek, Everwood, Brothers & Sisters, The Flash and Riverdale), expertly steers this tale into a smart and enormously satisfying screen comedy that should have wide appeal. What’s not to love about Simon? Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner and Pouya Shahbazian are the producers. 20th Century Fox is understandably so high on the film’s prospects for positive word-of-mouth they are doing a nationwide sneak preview Saturday before launching it in wide release March 16.

Do you plan to see Love, Simon? Let us know what you think.

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