Simon Spear (Nick Robinson: Krystal) fears people will learn he’s gay. On the surface, he has little to worry about. His parents are loving and open, his friends are accepting and his school is fairly liberal. But thousands of little things cripple him with fear.
His father jokes about “fruity” men on TV. The school’s only openly gay kid is ridiculed by two bullies. Simon believes it’s in his best interest to stay closeted until college and has only one more year to get through.
But he discovers he isn’t alone when he sees a Tumblr page message about his school. A boy who uses the pseudonym Blue posts that he’s gay and terrified. Simon creates a fake Gmail account to reach this kindred spirit.
Using the alias Jacques, Simon tells Blue he is not alone. Soon, the boys begin an epistolary romance, encouraging each other to their first tentative steps out of the closet. Writing Blue becomes the best part of Simon’s day.
Things hit a snag when a classmate discovers Simon’s emails. Simon is threatened with exposure if he doesn’t help his unscrupulous classmate get a girl. Under even more pressure, Simon begins lying to keep his secret.
Heartfelt, charming and utterly enjoyable Love, Simon is a great romantic comedy. Director Greg Berlanti (Political Animals) crafts a John Hughes movie for the Instagram generation from the popular young adult novel.
As the center, Robinson’s Simon is a wonder. Filled with self-conscious ticks and nervous energy, he is relatable and sweet, even when he’s making terrible choices. Robinson makes a sympathetic figure, swept up in the clandestine romance that gives him the courage to be himself.
As Simon’s newest pal, Abby, (Alexandra Shipp: X-Men: Apocalypse) is a standout. The perfect breezy young teen, she is Simon’s only confidant beyond Blue. Sweet, but no pushover, she demands respect for herself and her friends.
Engaging as it is, Love, Simon is not perfect. Simon’s troubles wrap up a little too easily, and his relationships with pals are shortchanged in the interest of time. But Robinson’s winning performance holds the movie together even when the plot gets a bit thin.
Often, movies about gay teenagers are fraught with despair. Love, Simon isn’t. It’s a great movie to start a conversation with teens and may be a jumping-off point for families to talk about uncomfortable issues.
Berlanti does an excellent job of balancing teen pathos, dramatics and humor to create a moving movie.
Good RomCom • PG-13 • 110 mins.
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Katie Price (Bella Thorne) is a beautiful senior in high school that loves music. She should be the most popular girl in school, but there’s a problem: Katie has a severe sensitivity to the sun. Instead of going to school, Katie must stay locked in her home during the day, behind special windows to keep her safe.
At night, Katie can finally venture into the world. She spends the evenings wandering her small town, playing her guitar and dreaming of being like normal girls.
Things change for Katie when she finally meets her next-door neighbor Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger), who she’s had a crush on for years. Charlie falls hard for the mysterious girl with a guitar, wondering why he’s never seen her at school or in town during the day.
Can Katie come clean about her condition? Or will it push Charlie away?
The latest in the weepy teen romance genre, Midnight Sun is a bit of a lackluster effort. It features pretty people, problems that are solvable and lots of weepy histrionics.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 91 mins.
Pacific Rim Uprising
After the death of his father, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) had turned to a life of crime. But when the Kaiju monsters his father helped banish return from the ocean depths, Jake must once again return to the military and take up the family legacy of saving the world.
Kaiju are so massive that only giant robots piloted by human teams can fight them. They battle in the streets for the survival of the planet. This new breed of Kaiju, however, seems impervious to the robot’s weapons. Can Jake and his team figure out a way to save humanity?
This is not a complicated movie. This movie is monsters battling robots in vast cityscapes. If you love old-school Godzilla movies, this should be a satisfying popcorn flick.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 111 mins.
Paul, Apostle of Christ
After being captured by the emperor Nero, Jesus’ apostle Paul (John Faulkner) waits for death. He is visited by Luke (Jim Caviezel), who hopes to tell Paul’s story and inspire the Christians being persecuted in Rome. While Luke spoils for an uprising, Paul is more concerned with saving the souls of those who would fight.
The two men battle over what will help them spread the true word of the lord: Love or battle.
A lavish-looking take on the final days of Paul, this film suffers from a rather shoddy script. Messages are blared, dialog is forced and the beauty of the original Bible story is often lost in rather preachy overtones.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 108 mins.
Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) move their extended family of garden accoutrements to London, where disaster strikes. When a garden gnome thief kidnaps their beloved family, the duo must turn to the greatest ceramic mind of their times — Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp).
The sleuth leads Gnomeo and Juliet on a wild adventure through the streets of London, trying to retrieve all the stolen gnomes.
Kids might enjoy the weak puns, silly plot and occasional glimpse of gnome bum, but for anyone with a driver’s license, this is going to be a slog. If you must see this movie, stock up on snacks, and perhaps bring a flask.
Prospects: Grim • PG • 86 mins.
Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) seeks help dealing with the trauma of having a man stalk her. Though she thinks she’s getting therapy, she’s actually involuntarily committed into a mental institution. While she screams and demands to be released, she begins to see her stalker.
Has her commitment been an elaborate ruse by a man hoping to control her? Or is she actually slipping into delusion?
The latest twist-filled drama from Steven Soderbergh, Unsane is a movie about society ignoring women, even when they are screaming for help. This should be a gritty, terrifying look at how scary it can be to feel powerless and unheard in society.
Prospects: Bright • R • 97 mins.