LGBT+ cinema is evolving and growing in prominence. In recent years it has emerged as a genre in and of itself, a development that has paved the way for more diverse and different stories to be shown on screen.
Enter, Love, Simon, the teen, coming of age story that first captured the hearts of many in the novel from which it is adapted, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. It is an emotional rollercoaster, evoking anger, sadness, amusement and overwhelming joy in 110 minutes. The factor that makes Love, Simon an important story though, is the manner in which LGBT+ issues are presented. The fact that our protagonist, Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), is gay, is not the big reveal, the shocking twist nor the reason that the film stands out. In a sense, Simon’s sexuality is not important and a big deal is not made out of it. Instead, we follow a fundamental aspect of being LGBT+: coming out.
With coming out as the focal point of the narrative, a central step in being queer is addressed, when it most likely would not have been in other LGBT+ films. In narratives where a character is LGBT+, this is either known from the offset or revealed during the story, but how did the character get to this point? What was the journey like? This missing piece of the puzzle is a regularity in cinema, and Love, Simon, is that missing piece.
After conversing with Blue over email under the pseudonym, Jacques, Simon’s emails are discovered and used against him by a classmate, who threatens to publish them online should Simon not help set up the classmate with Simon’s friend. Granted, the circumstances are extreme, but this sets up what becomes an incredibly realistic depiction of the coming out process, and the mental effects that it can have on somebody. As Simon rightfully exclaims, coming out is ‘supposed to be my thing’. Simon is backed into a corner and is certainly not ready to face the world, which emphasises the point of the film and the narrative.
Coming out is difficult, and it needs to be taken at a pace that suits whoever is in question, without any external influence intended to speed this process up, like blackmail, for instance. Part of the route to coming out is self-acceptance, which is a monumental task on its own, before then disclosing this information, and it is a long struggle. Simon’s mum confesses that she could feel Simon holding his breath, and tells him that he can exhale now, in what is, in my opinion, the most emotional scene of the film. The analogy of holding one’s breath accurately conveys the struggle that comes with the coming out process. Who you are is being held back, lies are told to conceal identities and there is the ever-present fear of rejection and a bad reaction. All of this is a burden that is can affect one incredibly negatively, and Simon is followed by viewers through this. His first statement after coming out to his parents on Christmas Day is ‘I’m still me’ as if he is trying to lessen the anticipated disappointment that he would be faced with, giving him peace of mind also. Juggling all these emotions and factors in a film is difficult, but done very well in Love, Simon, and the message that coming out is a big deal is executed perfectly.
The film, I hope, highlights the hidden, mental aspects of this process, especially for those who have not or do not have to do it themselves. The audience, no matter their sexual orientation, empathise with Simon, because the character and the lifestyle he leads, disregarding his sexuality, is relatable to many. The film’s target audience being teenagers prompts the discussion of sexual exploration, self-discovery, and ultimately, self-realisation. Simon’s story can, for this reason, be identified with by many, either as the one coming out or the friend who’s there by their side. The importance of having the coming out process in the spotlight, for this reason, cannot be overstated, and the gap in the market has now been filled, in what is a heart-warming story, but also an educational experience.