Coming out the high school closet: ‘Love, Simon’


Trying to find love while hiding your sexual orientation can be quite complicated. Like for 17-year-old Simon Spier (played by Nick Robinson), who is yet to tell his family and friends that he is gay and finds himself falling in love online with a classmate whose identity he doesn’t know, in gay romcom, Love, Simon.

Resolving these issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing. Created and directed by Greg Berlanti (The Broken Hearts Club, Arrow, The Flash), Love, Simon is a funny heart-felt coming of age story about the thrilling journey of finding yourself and falling in love.

The movie is based on Becky Albertalli’s young adult novel Simon vs The Homo Sapien’s Agenda which was published in 2012. The novel was in turn inspired by a number of LGBT and gender non-conforming children Albertalli had worked with when she was still a psychologist.

Love, Simon is about a closeted teenage boy, who starts a secret email flirtation with a closeted classmate. His emails, unfortunately, fall into the wrong hands of another student, Martin, who threatens to publicise Simon’s secret.

Marty Bowen from the movie’s production company, Temple Hill, said the team wanted to create a movie that would be relatable not only to young people but also to adults. “Even as adults, you’re looking for things that remind you of your high school experience and feel authentic and relatable,” explains Bowen.

“And the journey of seeing somebody have to come to a realisation that they need to truly be themselves by admitting their sexuality is a fairly universal thing today. And the way that was approached in the book is the way we approached it in the film, which is to treat it like your first kiss or the challenges of asking out the girl that you care about. Let’s essentially treat coming out of the closet as a normal, everyday, high school decision, which it is for many people,” Bowen says.

Fellow producer Wyck Godfrey saw a big screen potential in Albertalli’s story. “We produce a lot of movies in the young adult space,” he says. “And fundamentally, we’d never seen a high school romantic comedy with a gay teenage lead. And so that was the thing with the book: we all read it and said, ‘Oh my God, nobody’s done this.’ Nobody’s just unabashedly openly made a movie about a kid that’s going through the process that every gay individual goes through of figuring out their identity and when they should come out.”

Nick Robinson, who stars as the title character, said he was excited to be a part of the film when he was approached for the role. “This story has not been told before, in this way,” Robinson says. “This movie has the potential to reach a lot of people and help them in a way that hasn’t been done before. I feel like this telling was past due, and I wanted to be part of the team that helped tell it.”

He adds that Simon is a very easy character to identify with and that’s one of the strengths of the film. “He is someone that you’re kind of rooting for along the way. Regardless of your sexuality I think everyone wants to find someone, everyone wants him to find happiness and that’s really what the film is about… Simon finding happiness and acceptance, self acceptance and ultimately love.”

Jennifer Garner, who plays Spiers’ mom, Emily, describes the movie as a story about family and love. “But it is also about secrets,” she says. “It’s about letting them out, being who you are and having the courage to really stand up for yourself and say what you need to say. And the movie deals with these themes and the theme of being yourself but in a fun and refreshing way. There is definitely some fun in the movie and it’s not all drama.”

The result is the first major-studio-backed romantic comedy with a gay lead character; one that’s charmed audiences and won over most critics. It’s mainstream appeal was reinforced by Love, Simon scoring the Best Kiss trophy at the recent 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards for its same-sex on-screen smooch.

Keiynan Lonsdale, who plays Bram in the film, accepted the award and said: “You can live your dreams and kiss the one that you love, no matter what gender they are. You can live your dreams, and you can believe in magic. You can live your dreams, and you can be yourself.”

Despite reportedly being banned in India due to its “gay content”, Love, Simon has so far bagged almost $60 million at the box-office around the world. It officially opens in cinemas in South Africa on 29 June.

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