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Movie Review: Set the record straight

‘Love, Simon’ is an excellent coming of age tale about a character struggling with his sexuality in an evolving world.

Times are changing, and movies are, too.

Even the standard high school comedy has been forced to evolve. As beloved as it is, a film like The Breakfast Club probably wouldn’t do as well in theaters today with its simple plot.

Love, Simon is a sign of the times. It crams a cast of memorable, specific characters in its tight 109-minute runtime, and each scene moves with a purpose. It’s firmly ingrained in the contemporary world — the main quartet of friends follows a secret-confessional blog specific to their high school while driving around town drinking iced coffee. It features plenty of that on-screen text messaging with the clicking keyboard that’s become a cliché in recent films, though at last it feels organic instead of cheesy.

The film is also progressive in its premise. Ask title character Simon Spier about his life, and he’d likely give some rendition of the previous paragraph. He does cling tightly to one secret, though — he’s gay, and hasn’t told anyone.

While it’s nice to see an update on the “boy hiding secret crush” trope, it’s even better to see it done well. Director Greg Berlanti has his finger on the pulse of what youth are watching — here he crosses over from the television side of Hollywood, where he has roots in plenty of popular shows from the CW (Arrow, Super Girl and Riverdale to name a few). Melodramatic his work may be, but it scratches an itch only finely crafted drama can reach.

Simon spills onto the screen with the same binge-worthiness. Nick Robinson’s titular character hides his secret from everyone, including his loving parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) and his friends (bestie Leah is played by Katherine Langford, borrowed from Netflix’s youth sensation 13 Reasons Why).

This time around, the object of affection is invisible. After someone monikered “Blue” posts on the school’s blog confessing he is gay and living in the closet, Simon creates a fake email to contact him. They get to know each other, and Simon finds himself falling in love with a name on his phone. At this rate, he can’t hope to keep his secret for that much longer.

Robinson’s young career is one to watch — at 22, he’s already starred in one of the all-time biggest blockbusters Jurassic World, and paid his dues with teenage romance schlock The 5th Wave and Everything, Everything. Consider this an upgrade — here, he gets to sink his teeth in a role of actual substance. Despite its upbeat tone, the film also sees Simon taking on challenges he’s spent his entire life running from, and the audience feels that fear with him. Like all well-done coming of age stories, the movie heaves a hefty emotional punch.

The movie is based off the 2015 young adult novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and is produced by Fox 2000 Pictures — and let’s face it, one of the coolest things about the movie is that it actually happened and was released by a major studio.

For its premise alone, the film could impact a lot of young people looking for a story like this. For its fine storytelling, it’ll linger with everyone who sees it.

The movie will come out March 16. ••

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