“Love, Simon” delivers a raw coming out story

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What begins as yet another humdrum teen film slowly morphs into an empowering, passionate coming out story. While toting a flat, ultimately unlikeable cast of characters and an almost too perfect protagonist, “Love, Simon” manages to deliver an impactful message throughout its final act, cementing itself as one of the best book adaptations in a long time.

Despite the high praise, this film is far from perfect or even great. Most of the acting is a bit too cheesy and over dramatic, and there is little underlying personality within the film. A chord is finally struck, however, once Simon’s inner demons take center stage, forcing him to reveal his secret before he’s ready.

Based on the award-winning novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” “Love, Simon” follows Simon Spear, a typical awkward high school senior with a pretty decent life. His parents are successful in their fields, and his sister is an aspiring chef. Simon gets coffee for his friends before scooping them up in his car, and they jam to ’90s songs on the way to school. He just has one huge secret: He is gay.

When there’s a post about there being a closeted gay guy at his school, Simon immediately begins an email chain with the mysterious Blue. However, their romance is shaken when the emails are found, and Simon will do anything for his secret to not be revealed to the entire student body.

Being a film based on a young-adult novel, “Love, Simon” falls victim to the curse that most adaptations face. Namely, the storyline feels overdone and otherwise uninteresting simply because it is a rushed cluttering of its source material. As such, each character is doomed to be flat because of the limited time given to portray the complex, fleshed out characters from the novel. Even Simon suffers from seeming gruelingly boring in his almost perfect life rather than a constantly tortured closeted boy like in the novel.

Departing from comparisons to the novel, each non-original character in “Love, Simon” also feels heavily orchestrated and dreadfully boring. On multiple occasions, the writers attempt to get the audience to care about Simon’s friends, but each one of them offers very little to the overall plot and does nothing in terms of development. The film also fails as a high school narrative because of its tame nature and simple, one-dimensional teenagers. Put simply, to successfully build a story centered around high school students, there needs to be a heavier focus on the struggles and anxieties of teenagers rather than parties and football games.

The fact that the film attempted to follow faithfully to the novel also keeps the film from telling an interesting, new story. “Simon vs.” has won awards because of its fantastic story, but this film could have built on that narrative and taken audiences into deeper, more emotional places that the novel could not reach. For those who had the pleasure of reading the novel before seeing the film, the story feels as if it simply drags and only gets interesting until the final act. This film may have worked better as a short Netflix series about the harsh reality of being gay in high school rather than the upbeat narrative the novel and film portray.

There is one important theme than can be interpreted from the characterization of Simon and his loved ones. Both the film and novel demonstrate that not every closeted gay student comes from a broken home or is in danger of being shunned and discarded because of his or her sexual orientation. As Simon mentions, he is well aware that his family will truly accept who he is, but he simply does not want his normal, stable life to change because of his secret. This film does an incredible job of not making the main character an anti-social, disturbed basket case. Instead, he is portrayed as a boy who just wants to live an openly gay life.

Despite being kept out of his head, Simon is handled relatively well once the world surrounding him has been established. Once his email thread falls into the wrong hands, Simon’s selfish colors finally show. The writers do an excellent job of displaying an almost crazed Simon who is willing to smash lives apart and go against his own morals to protect his secret. As one may guess, Simon ultimately redeems himself in the end and becomes one-half of one of the most talked about relationships in young-adult history.

The humor in this film is also a delightful highlight and made trudging through the drab narrative bearable. There are multiple hilarious moments throughout the film that only add to the charm and characterization of certain characters. To name just few, Simon’s relatable text to his mom telling her to pick him up because kids at the school dance are drinking alcohol was fantastic. Also, Bram’s post-precedency Barack Obama Halloween costume was an excellent addition to his character.

“Love, Simon” definitely manages to draw tears and shine with its last dying breath. Once Simon is forced to come out as gay, the entire tone of the film shifts from a cheerful story about a boy in love to a devastating narrative about discrimination, the loss of relationships and hate crimes against gays.

Never has there been a film that’s affected me quite like this when the credits rolled. In its final 40 minutes, “Love, Simon” managed to evoke so many emotions that other films never came close to touching. As a massive activist for the LGBT community, “Love, Simon” struck a nerve with its scenes of brutal bullying of gays and the painfully accurate portrayals of being a gay high school student. As I cried multiple times throughout the final act, several other audience members could not contain their sniffles. Despite its minor gripes, the themes of acceptance and pride in one’s sexuality make “Love, Simon” a must-see film.

“Love, Simon” is out now in theaters.