Alex Garland is a science fiction writer that has a lot to say about humanity. His 2014 debut film Ex Machina followed a programmer studying a big name CEO’s invention of artificial intelligence, evolved into a complex study of what defines a “human.” The film was an exceptionally directed dive into the ideas of ego, gender roles, sexuality, and autonomy. His follow up feature, Annihilation, walks a different path from Ex Machina in scale. In his sophomore film, Garland shifts his style from a one-location thriller to a spectacle-filled journey through different environments. But Garland does not abandon his core philosophies, he develops them. Horrific yet gorgeous, Annihilation evokes the same feelings of previous science fiction films, but delivers a wildly original, personal, and experimental look into human themes.
If there’s one thing that Love, Simon succeeds at, its giving us something new in a genre that is characterized by the regurgitation of the same tropes and clichés. Needless to say, I am not a big fan of teen romcoms, so I walked into my advanced screening last Tuesday with cautious optimism. I was immediately surprised to see how packed the theater was with plenty of young faces and couples, and as soon as the movie started they cheered and filled the theater with so much delight and energy that can only be beaten by a crowd of a Star Wars movie on opening night. It was in that moment I knew that I was about to watch something very special for my community. Love, Simon is a heartfelt, positive, and inviting romp through the personal journey of a closeted gay teenager, and being that it is a mainstream studio film- that in itself is an honorable achievement.
Adapted by the 2015 young adult novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon tells the story of a teenage boy dealing with the struggle of embracing his own sexual identity whilst also wanting to also fit in and be treated normally by his family, friends, and peers around him. It was directed by Greg Berlanti, the writer-producer of other teen-aimed movies and shows such as the D.C. network shows and was produced by the same people who brought you films like The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. This is a good indicator of what kind of film to expect going in, but Love, Simon does offer some very substantial subversions of traditional romantic comedy fare, including a character that serves as a callout to the obnoxious white knight archetype you see in a lot of these films.