In 1985, the king of teen screen comedy, John Hughes, unleashed The Breakfast Club on the world. Telling the story of five high school students thrown into Saturday detention together, it set out to reveal the truth behind the characters, about whom both the audience and the characters’ peers hold assumptions based on stereotypes. Love, Simon treads similar ground in attempting to upend preconceptions about what it is to be gay at the same time as tackling troublesome attitudes. But it has more in common than themes, comedy and teenagers.
In The Breakfast Club, John Hughes cast actors older than the teens they were portraying, just as director Greg Berlanti did for his screen adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s book. In both films, this wasn’t an accident, nor was it the case that they were hoping audiences wouldn’t notice. Indeed, it was a very deliberate choice. One that started in Love Simon with making the character of Simon Spier a touch more mature. In both the film and book, Simon faces a coming-out battle.
Berlanti tells FANDOM: “We aged Simon up; he’s older in the movie than he is in the book. I think in part because there’s two different kinds of high school you can put on screen. There’s high schoolers playing high schoolers — and I’ve done that before. Then there’s what I call the Breakfast Club model – twentysomethings playing high schoolers. It just, in a way, broadens the story, and as long as you cast around that, it lets the story [expand]. Obviously, there’s a heightened realism to it, and you can tell they’re not exactly teenagers. Though we did have some sprinkled throughout the movie. But it gives it a different [feel]. It allows for a little bit more edginess and adultness in the movie.”
This quality allows for greater resonance with a wider audience — not just the Young Adult fanbase. The story becomes more universal, and allows a broader movie-going audience to identify and empathise with the characters. Making its messages all the more far-reaching and, in turn, powerful.
We asked Becky Albertalli, whose book Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda was the basis for Berlanti’s film, for her take on Simon’s screen ageing up.
She said, “I think [Berlanti] really liked the idea of playing around with Simon in his last year of high school, looking forward to college and a fresh start but also kind of wanting to hold onto that part of himself; his life that he’s always known. It’s something that comes to a head, I think, sometimes in senior year of high school.”
It’s also something that all adults can recognise — at every stage of life, we all have to deal with letting things go and moving on.
Albertalli stressed that she was supportive of any creative changes Berlanti and the screenwriters made to story in translating it to the screen.
Love, Simon is out now in the US and Australia and hits screens in the UK on April 6.