This review was first published in the Holiday 2018 issue of AVENues.
Starring: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp
Written by: Elizabeth Berger, Isaac Aptaker
Directed by: Greg Berlanti
How good is this movie?
A big, warm, fuzzy hug of a movie! Simon has pretty much the perfect life, and he also has an almost perfect coming-out experience: his sister defends him, his parents reassure him, his friends support him, and his teachers stand up for him. It’s a very different story from Moonlight, but if the Jenkins film is a satisfying three-course meal, this is a very tasty dessert!
How ace is this movie?
This is in many ways a conventional romantic love story, but it differs from most romcoms in that Simon and Blue spend significant time as friends before their feelings turn romantic. Since they meet on line and get to know each other over e-mail, their relationship is also clearly based on more than physical attraction. And, although the romance is the main driving force of the movie, Simon’s relationship with his friends is granted equal importance.
As a coming-out story, Simon’s experience has a lot in common with many ace people’s. Being gay means he doesn’t respond to social situations in the expected way, and being in the closet means he cannot explain this to people. He and Leah talk about feeling like they’re always on the outside of things, like there’s an invisible line separating them from the rest of the world. In Simon’s case, the feeling is resolved by owning up to his gay identity, and he is almost immediately rewarded with a hunky new boyfriend – a rather optimistic ending that may appeal more to alloromantic than to aromantic aces.
It is actually Leah who remains an outsider, and, in so doing, she reflects a different side of ace experience. Although we may assume her to be straight, our only real evidence for this is her crush on one person. In fact, her statement about being “destined to care so much about one person it nearly kills me” suggests that she is demisexual. The unrequited crush side of her experience may be more familiar to allosexuals, but the fact that she eventually takes a back seat (literally!) to her best friend’s romantic partner is one many aces can relate to.
I have mixed feelings about this conclusion. On the one hand, I’m glad that the gay character gets a happy ending, and that he maintains a good relationship with his friends. On the other hand, I wish that the friendship story had been pushed just a little bit further and been allowed to play a bigger role in the happy ending. Still, I am glad that the film avoids giving Leah a consolation love-interest. At the end of the movie she is still single, and the most important person in her life is still her best friend. The film thus provides positive portrayals of same-sex couples, opposite-sex couples, and singles, and it affirms the importance of both romantic and platonic attachments.
3.5 Stars; 3 Aces
Happy Valentine’s Day!