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It’s hard to believe but Love, Simon is the first gay coming-of-age film to be released by a major Hollywood studio.  There has been no shortage of gay coming-of-age films in the last twenty years or so but the fact that Love, Simon is the first one to emerge from Hollywood is cause for celebration.

The film centers around Simon (Nick Robinson), a perfectly normal teenager with one secret – he’s gay.  When Simon learns that one of his peers is gay, the two begin chatting online, neither of them knowing each other’s identity.  The two closeted teens offer each other sympathy and support as they come to terms with their sexuality.

Love, Simon is a whimsical, charming high school film that strikes a nice balance between comedic and emotionally resonant moments.  It may not be the most realistic gay coming-of-age film but it’s entertaining nonetheless.  The film is built around the mystery of identifying Simon’s gay classmate and the film has some fun toying with the viewer’s perception of who this person might be.  When the inevitable reveal comes complete with a first kiss atop a Ferris Wheel, it feels earned even if it is a bit unrealistic.

I heard Love, Simon described as an unrealistic fantasy teen drama set in an idyllic suburbia.  I think this is an apt description but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The 1980s were something of a golden age for the teen film.  Great John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club (1985) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) most certainly have a tinge of fantasy too while something like Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times at Ridegemont High (1982) feels like a realistic depiction of high schoolers.  Love, Simon belongs in the former camp even if it isn’t quite as good as those ’80s classics.

I had no expectations going into the screening of Love, Simon.  I came out pleasantly surprised.  The performances are strong especially that of the lead, Nick Robinson.  Natasha Rothwell steals the show though as the hilarious high school drama teacher.  Love, Simon may not be a perfect gay coming-of-age film but it is certainly a start.

Rating (out of ****): *** 1/2