I don’t cry during movies. That’s not to say I’m not emotionally affected by them – I obviously am, otherwise I wouldn’t devote my life to film. But I just don’t cry during movies. You’re reading from a guy who made it through Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful with dry eyes. But every now and then, a film does make me misty-eyed, I do come close to tears. For example, the ending of Furious 7 (I know, a film about dudes in cars brought me closer to tears than films about the holocaust, I know what that says about me, just follow me here) when Paul Walker and Vin Diesel look at each other one last time and drive off while “See You Again” plays, man I got so misty eyed. Me and my friends were doing that thing where we’re not looking at each other because none of us want the other to see we’re fighting back tears. But anyways, to get back on track here, the point is not many films make me misty-eyed – yet Love, Simon got me misty-eyed at least 3 times.
Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is a high school senior who hasn’t come out to anyone that he’s gay. After starting a quasi-pen pal exchange with another anonymous student at his school who is gay too, Simon starts to come to terms with coming out to his family and friends – and falls in love.
I’ve had stock in Nick Robinson since I saw The Kings of Summer in 2013, which might be one of my favorite films of the decade. He’s just got a natural charisma to him, and he does respectful work here playing a gay character. Sometimes actors will treat playing a gay character as if they’re showing off a new accent, like they’re playing it as a loud performance that they expect an Oscar for. It always seems to come with italics – they’re playing a “gay” character. Nick Robinson avoids all those trappings and just does what he’s good at – his natural awkward charm – and keeps it human. He’s not looking for awards, he’s just looking for empathy. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel bring authenticity to their dramatic scenes and hit those emotional moments really well. Wait – did I just type that Josh Duhamel could handle dramatic material??? I did, because he does. They play Simon’s parents and bring the emotion when it counts.
At times it feels like it’s really trying too hard to be quirky and funny, there are moments where you can feel director Greg Berlanti going “This is how the kids talk these days, right guys?” But for the most part, it’s heartfelt and human. Berlanti knows how to tug heartstrings just right, he’s the executive behind The Flash (among other shows) – one of the most emotional shows on TV – and brings that innate sense of how to make you tear up to film. It’s also got a winning sense of humor, there were sequences that had me laughing pretty damn hard. It would have been a significant thing to be the first studio-produced, wide-released film starring a gay teen, but it doesn’t kick back on that and expect it to be enough – it’s not just a trivia question answer. Berlanti makes a truly emotional and heartwarming film, it’s just so earnest in its emotion and character. It just made me so happy and warm, dammit – and we could all use that feeling in times like these.