MOVIE REVIEW: Love, Simon (2018)

Love, Simon is a surprisingly, radically-inclusive coming-of-age tale that wins you over with its universal truths.

Love, Simon kicks off with its titular character declaring in a voice-over that he’s just a typical teenager (“I’m just like you”) then the film cuts to a montage that highlights his upper-middle class credentials: his beaming family and their beautiful model house, his first SUV, his cool, ethnically-diverse friends sipping on their iced-coffees, etc. Well, Simon’s straight-out-of-catalog existence makes him anything but your ‘typical teenager’. It got me worried for a minute. Is this going to be the type of teen movie that is written by people who don’t understand teenagers at all? Director Greg Berlanti proves this otherwise so I swept this slight misstep under the rug. Simon’s seemingly perfect life is a facade and once you get past it, the film delivers a heartfelt story of self-liberation.

And so, the film reveals a common denominator. Like most of us, Simon’s been harboring a “huge ass secret.” In his case, he’s gay and no one knows anything about it. We are given enough reasons to believe that Simon outing himself in public will not be the end of his world. He’s in a much safer environment after all: he has a liberal-minded family that will not shun him plus, a supportive group of friends that will stand by him. His biggest fear is actually how these people around him will fundamentally change their perspective towards him. The film presents an interesting dichotomy of declaring your difference to the world yet still wanting things to be the same as ever. What will people expect of him moving forward? Is he supposed to let his ‘gay flag’ fly once he’s in college? Simon visualizes his future in an exuberant and hilarious Whitney Houston dance/dream sequence. He is, after all, a confused teenager who don’t know what he asks for.

While most queer films often equate coming out as a death sentence, Love, Simon feels progressive. Simon does not see his sexuality as an abnormality or an aberration, it’s just a part of him that he’s learning to embrace. Most of the conflict here is actually an internal struggle and sure, you could wish for more cinematic tension. But once the film lays out his moments of introspection, it turns up more affecting than what we expect it to be. There is a sustained level of inclusivity throughout Simon’s emotional journey that it will not take a gay person to understand what he’s going through. The emotions transcended are universal and we all know them too well: the agony of keeping a dark secret to yourself, the itching anxiety of waiting for someone’s reply, the humiliation from doing grand romantic gestures, the blindsiding confusion from misreading your friend’s mixed signals, etc. The film falls squarely in the coming-of-age category but it isn’t interested in rehashing the tired tropes of social food chain, overrated prom nights, graduation farewells, and so on. It all suddenly feels refreshing.

But even if you’re not emotionally invested at all here, the film still finds a way to captivate its viewers’ attention. The film’s mystery is the identity of “Blue”, an equally-reluctant closeted gay student to which Simon sparks up a digital romance with. The two confide each other’s deepest secrets including their embarrassing sexual awakenings (involving Harry Potter and Jon Snow, don’t ask) and as the story places us in Simon’s shoes, we begin to speculate who could his penpal be? Is it the popular jock? His pianist co-thespian? His classmate who works in the local diner? This guessing game allows our protagonist’s longings drift from one prospect to another, playing out in hypothetical scenarios.

Going back on the subject of portraying teenagers in films, director Greg Berlanti genuinely cares about the teen experience, especially their approach towards young love. The characters come out with a right mix of intelligence, complexity and naivety (as it should be). The film also benefits from a clever and sympathetic script by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger (two of the writers behind the heartwarming series This is Us). Simon (Nick Robinson) and his group of friends Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexandra Shipp) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) deliver strong performances, managing to be both authentic and likeable. Leah says at one point, “Sometimes I think I’m destined to care so much about one person, it nearly kills me,” this is how sensitive smart teenagers talk. We even get to understand the psyche of Simon’s annoying classmate Martin (Logan Miller), how he’s misguided as opposed to being completely malevolent. It all boils down to seeking love and validation from the people around them. Because that’s what teenagers really care about.

But if I were to pick a line that’s representative of the whole film it will be from a poignant scene where Simon’s mom (Jennifer Garner) says to him, “This last few years, it’s almost like I can feel you holding your breath. You can exhale now.” This is exactly how the film feels like – a long overdue exhale. This is a story of a young man who comes into his own terms and finally takes charge of his story. Admittedly, the third act feels saccharine that you can almost shoehorn a Taylor Swift chorus in the end but as the whole theater cheered for Simon, I couldn’t help but feel uplifted as well.

Love, Simon is not groundbreaking by any means and still could’ve used a more realistic touch present in indie films. Still, the movie ends up as a competent descendant to seminal teen classics like The Breakfast Club. It does not present the audience with an overt agenda or a didactic lecture on LGBTQ rights, it simply says that everyone, no matter who they love, deserves a great love story.

Love, Simon wins you over with its universal truths, and for that, this ends up as one of the most important films of the year.

4 out of 5 stars

Distributed by 20th Century Fox, ‘Love, Simon‘ will have its paid advance screenings on April 30 and May 1, 2018 in select PH cinemas. Opens nationwide on May 9, 2018.

Starring: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Josh Duhamel, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Keiynan Lonsdale, Logan Miller and Jennifer Garner. Directed by Greg Berlanti from a screenplay by Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger. Based on the novel ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ by Becky Albertalli.

Runtime: 1 hour, 50 minutes

WATCH: Nick Robinson stars in new trailer for gay coming-of-age ‘Love, Simon’

From blockbuster filmmakers Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen (“Fault In Our Stars”, “Maze Runner” and “Twilight”) comes another highly-anticipated YA movie “Love, Simon” – about a boy’s coming out and finally facing his anonymous correspondent online whom he’s fallen in love with.

Everyone deserves a great love story. In “Love, Simon”, seventeen-year old Simon Spier’s (Nick Robinson) situation is a little more complicated: he’s yet to tell his family or friends he’s gay and he doesn’t actually know the identity of the anonymous classmate he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing.

Directed by Greg Berlanti (Dawson’s Creek, Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl ), written by Isaac Aptaker & Elizabeth Berger (This is Us), and based on Becky Albertalli’s acclaimed novel, “Love, Simon” is a funny and heartfelt coming-of-age story about the thrilling ride of finding yourself and falling in love.

The cast of “Love, Simon” also includes today’s fast-rising talents – Katherine Langford and Miles Heizer (from Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why”), Alexandra Shipp (who played young Storm in “X-Men: Apocalypse”), Logan Miller (“Walking Dead”), Jorge Lendeborg (“Spiderman: Homecoming”) and Keynan Lonsdale (“The Flash”) with Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel.

Love, Simon opens May 9, 2018 in Philippine cinemas from 20th Century Fox.

‘The 5th Wave’ opens in PH at No. 1, grosses P51.6-M in 5 days

MANILA, Jan. 25, 2016 – Columbia Pictures’ alien invasion action-thriller “The 5th Wave” took Philippine cinemas by storm, bowing at No.1 with a nationwide five-day opening weekend gross of P51.6-M (Jan. 20 to 24, 2016). This was announced today by a spokesman of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

The film adaptation of Rick Yancey’s young adult novel gave lead star Chloe Grace Moretz her biggest opening in the country. She previously headlined past smash hits “If I Stay,” “Carrie” and “Let Me In.”

Ron Livingston, center left, and Chloë Grace Moretz, center right, and Zackary Arthur, below center, star in Columbia Pictures' "The 5th Wave."

Yancey’s book was published in 2013 to critical and popular acclaim, with over 20 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list. In “The 5th Wave,” four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Against a backdrop of fear and distrust, Cassie (Moretz) is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. As she prepares for the inevitable and lethal 5th wave, Cassie teams up with a young man who may become her final hope – if she can only trust him.

Trinoma took the biggest share of box-office gross with P1.83-M, closely followed by SM Mall of Asia (P1.80-M) and SM Megamall (P1.59-M).

In the elite Top Ten cinemas are SM North Edsa (P1.33-M), Glorietta 4 (P1.17-M), Greenbelt 3 (P1.14-M), Gaisano Davao (P910,152), Gateway Cineplex (P849,922), Greenhills Promenade (P 844,992) and Ayala Cebu (P 826,602).

Posting huge receipts are Alabang Town Center (P 823,989), Eastwood (P 736,683), Robinsons Magnolia (P 735,291), Market! Market! (P 732,913), Harbor Point (P 727,600), SM Aura (P 724,218), Powerplant (P 721,477), Robinsons Tacloban (P 680,680), Robinsons Ermita (P 661,799) and SM Clark (P 651,350).

Also contributing impressive sales are Shang Cineplex (P 633,582), SM Cebu (P 629,790), Bonifacio High Street (P 625,048), Newport City (P 597,537), SM Fairview (P 593,940), Centrio Mall Cagayan (P 548,672), Robinsons Galleria (P 537,300), Sta. Lucia East (P 530,280), SM Baguio (P 529,659) and SM Manila (P 528,896).

Nick Robinson in Columbia Pictures' "The 5th Wave," starring Chloë Grace Moretz.
Nick Robinson in Columbia Pictures’ “The 5th Wave,” starring Chloë Grace Moretz.

Columbia Pictures presents in association with LStar Capital a Material/GK Films Production, “The 5th Wave.” Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Alex Roe, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe, and Liev Schreiber. Directed by J Blakeson. Produced by Tobey Maguire, Graham King, Matthew Plouffe, and Lynn Harris. Screenplay by Susannah Grant and Akiva Goldsman & Jeff Pinkner. Based on the novel by Rick Yancey.

Now showing across the Philippines, “The 5th Wave” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.


‘Jurassic World’ teen actor Nick Robinson stars with Chloe Grace Moretz in ‘The 5th Wave’

Coming off the global blockbuster “Jurassic World,” young actor Nick Robinson stars opposite Chloe Grace Moretz in Columbia Pictures’ new action-adventure “The 5th Wave.”

Based on Rick Yancey’s imaginative 2013 young adult novel, “The 5th Wave” focuses on a young girl, Cassie Sullivan (Moretz), who is bidding to survive in a world that has been decimated by four waves — huge, earth-shattering events, from tidal waves to pestilence — which are unleashed upon the planet by some unknown force. Robinson plays a high school kid called Ben Parish.

The 5th Wave NRobinson_LSchreiber

“Ben is the popular guy in high school, the heartthrob Cassie admires from afar but really doesn’t know,” explains director J Blakeson.

“One of the things that I like about ‘The 5th Wave’ is that the ultimate responsibility falls on the younger generation to fight back and to rebuild,” says Robinson, referencing life in the damaged world seen on screen. “And I think that has quite a lot of relevance in this day and age.”

“Ben Parish is your average high school kid. He’s the captain of the football team, the quarterback with a lot of friends, and an all-around nice guy,” says Robinson. “And, once the disasters strike, his life is changed forever. He survives, but he earns his nickname ‘Zombie’ after all the loss he’s been through.

The 5th Wave NRobinson_ZacharyArthur_CGMoretz

“He loses a lot of family and friends in the ensuing waves and he eventually finds himself at an army base,” the actor continues, “where he’s forced to lead a squad of young soldiers. He’s still trying to find out why he should even be fighting because he’s not sure exactly what’s left or what he’s fighting for.”

“Nick was really impressive, and just like Chloë, seemed to be beyond his years in his ability and emotional range,” adds the direcor.

“Ben Parish is the man, a solid dude. He’s the guy that everybody wants to be, the quarterback with a lot of friends, and an all-around nice guy,” says Robinson of his character. That all changes with the four waves of attacks. “He survives, but he earns his nickname ‘Zombie’ after all the loss he’s been through.”

The 5th Wave NickRobinson

Many of Robinson’s scenes put the actor opposite Liev Schreiber, an intense, highly charged actor. But the veteran says that the young actor was up to the task. “As actors, we work so hard on our own, and we come into a scene with our own ideas. What’s really exciting is when another actor completely redefines the scene for you, and that happened for me with Nick,” says Schreiber. “I assumed that I knew better, because I was older. But I was really impressed that he had his own take, and that it had nothing to do with what I was doing. In fact, his take was actually a little more interesting to me, and that’s exciting and encouraging to see.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 20, 2016, “The 5th Wave” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

‘The 5th Wave’ sets emotional story within alien invasion

Up-and-coming director J Blakeson, whose first film was the thriller “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” a film festival and critical favorite, takes the helm of Columbia Pictures new post-apocalyptic thriller “The 5th Wave,” based on the bestselling first novel in author Rick Yancey’s planned trilogy.

In the film, four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Against a backdrop of fear and distrust, Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. As she prepares for the inevitable and lethal 5th wave, Cassie teams up with a young man who may become her final hope – if she can only trust him.


“I wanted to make this movie because it allows us to create this big concept with scope – like an alien invasion – and use it to tell a story about the emotions and problems of everyday life in a more interesting way,” director J Blakeson says. “It was very important to me that this film was not about how terrible the world is, but how beautiful the world is and how you want to hold on to that beauty. My pitch was for Cassie to have hope and endurance; we keep the tone emotional, colorful, and cinematic, rather than have it be grungy and depressing.”

For Blakeson, directing “The 5th Wave” was something of a return to his roots. “When I was younger, I watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books involving teenage characters. They were transitional books that opened up literature to me,” he recalls. “There’s something about the way teenagers feel everything so intensely. Their emotions are on the surface and it really feels like the world’s coming to an end every day. The thing about this movie is that in Cassie’s life, the world really is coming to an end.”

At the heart of the story are the questions anyone faces as they make the transition to adulthood – not least of which is who can I trust? “In the movie, just like in real life, you can’t tell if someone is good or bad just by looking at them,” observes Blakeson. “Often in movies, the bad guy looks one way and the good guy looks another way, and it’s easy to tell them apart; in this movie, everybody looks the same. Cassie learns if you lose your trust in other people, it can take you down a dark path – humanity is about trusting each other and needing each other. ‘Trust no one’ if you want to survive, but you’ve got to learn to trust people if you’re going to win the war.”


Moretz adds, “Cassie is really affected by the whole ‘trust no one’ idea – everyone could potentially be a threat. She wants to think she can trust people, but every time she does, something flips on its head. She realizes she is always let down when she begins to trust someone, and so she ends up just trusting herself.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 20, 2016, “The 5th Wave” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.