The first thing that comes to mind when gay romance is thrown on the table is… tragedy. It strikes right of the bat to set the story up, or comes whirling out of a corner in the middle, or waits there at the end – or just soaks the entire story – because hey, gay romance is supposed to be tortured and sobbingly sad, not happy. Save for a few shining jewels of the BL kingdom, the best we can hope for from a gay romance story is usually a bitter-sweet ending where no one dies – and this goes even for heart-fluttering romances of the highest quality, such as Call Me by Your Name. However, finally, finally, a light has shone onto a genre that holds so much promise – or rather, Hollywood smelled a niche with the big bucks potential, but no matter – cinematic history has been made.
Love, Simon is a bona-fide romantic comedy drama, a proper coming-of-age blockbuster, with a perfectly beige lead character – you know, like the rest of ’em in such flicks – with one major difference: the titular Simon is gay. There is no coincidence that this landmark feature was directed by Greg Berlanti, known also for his work on the popular late 1990’s- early 2000’s TV show Dawson’s Creek, which incidentally featured the historic first on-screen passionate kiss between two male characters on prime-time TV – and Berlanti fought to keep that fleeting moment, to the point of threatening to quit the show.
But lets move out of the 1990’s… and into today’s Atlanta, Georgia. Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is a high school senior with a loving, upper-class family. He is popular, has a set circle of friends and leads a normal life. His life is picture-perfect, except for his one, deeply closeted secret – he’s gay. Given the era and the environment he’s growing up in, it may seem weird that he confides in no one – that is, until he sees a public message on their school’s message board, from a boy who admits to being gay – but hides his identity under the pseudonym “Blue”. Simon is drawn in by his words and they soon start exchanging messages, with Simon calling himself “Jacques”. Even though they do not know each other’s true identity, Simon finds himself falling for Blue and is constantly trying to figure out who he might be. But the fragile balance gets disrupted when another student discovers Simon’s messages and threatens to out him to their school – unless Simon helps him win over his friend Abby.
The story, based on the adult novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is, for all intents and purposes, as vanilla as it gets – but hey, Love, Simon is a mainstream romcom, that is the way it is supposed to be. However, it does surprisingly manage to escape from being too shallow – the film has a level of self-awareness that romcoms generally lack. Yes, there is some drama, but it evolves mainly around self-acceptance, and on top of that, there is much more humor than drama, which makes the entire experience as heart-warmingly fuzzy as it gets. The cast is genre-perfect – everyone delivers, everyone is pretty… The soundtrack is amazing – and was accordingly expensive, but worth every song. What else is there to say about a mainstream (gay) romcom?
Right. This is the first time that a gay character wasn’t made stereotypical and/or pushed somewhere into the background. Simon is a normal, good-looking, all-American kid. Hopefully, we will now move on from here, and perhaps soon, we’ll get to watch a mainstream romcom with a gay character – or characters – right, front, and centre, where all the focus will be on the love story, with none of the coming out drama like it’s an obligatory ingredient, because people! Love IS love.
Written by Sanja Struna
All photos © 20th Century Fox