If you're not a frequent flier in the young adult section of your book store, you probably have no idea how big "Love, Simon" is.
But there, amid other stories of teen angst, are several iterations of the book. This week, a DVD joins the fray and, frankly, the story of a boy's same-sex awakening is fairly tame. What it does reveal is just how much coffee kids drink and how married they are to social media.
In the low-key comedy, Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) realizes he’s gay, strikes up an online relationship with someone who shares many of his concerns and, accidentally, leaves an email open on a school computer.
An obnoxious classmate (Logan Miller) uses the information to blackmail Simon in order to begin a relationship with one of his best friends, Abby (Alexandra Shipp). Meanwhile, Mr. Right remains anonymous, forcing the lovestruck Simon to size up various people he meets. Could any of them be “Blue”?
The guessing game goes on too long – even though the man in question isn’t a Mystery Date dud. Director Greg Berlanti strings along the audience, all while showing Simon wrestle with the idea of coming out. While Berlanti has played with the concept on a number of television series, he gets a different vibe here, largely because Robinson is so likeable. He doesn’t appear to be the kind of kid who would have a single worry; ultimately, his idyllic life is just a cover.
Dad (John Duhamel), for example, makes homophobic statements while they’re watching TV; mom (Jennifer Garner) doesn’t weigh in on anything, despite her therapist credentials.
A vice principal (Tony Hale) talks about everything and nothing, but he’s such an inappropriate goofball, Simon could never seek his advice. Friends aren’t likely (including Katherine Langford), either. Then the news breaks and he’s forced to deal with taunts and long stares.
For a bit of the film, Berlanti puts the audience in Simon’s shoes and lets it experience just how isolated he feels. Some of the reactions are odd, particularly given the era, but Garner gets a moment that makes much of the discomfort worthwhile. When she tells him what she thinks of his news, “Love, Simon” achieves its potential.
The “who is Blue?” storyline plays out, too. But this isn’t a film that presses too hard on any of its themes. Based on a young adult book, it educates without alienating, managing to reference things like "The Disaster Artist" without embracing any of its quirkiness.