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Love, Simon

Based on Becky Albertalli’s novel, ‘Love, Simon’ is a breath of fresh air. For a long time, romance movies featuring gay characters have usually ended in heartbreak. While this ‘gay romantic tragedy’ genre has seen several films win praise and awards, it’s been frustrating not seeing a gay romance without the spectre of death hovering over characters. ‘Love, Simon’ ignores that awful device and goes for a simple coming of age romance. Although having a few gay clichés generally seen in American movies, it dares to offer brightness amongst the gloom of cinematic same-sex relationships.

Simon (Nick Robinson) is a closeted gay teenager attending high school. Although close to his parents Jack (Josh Duhamel) and Emily (Jennifer Garner), he hasn’t told them his secret. Whilst grappling with this issue, he begins an on-line connection with a fellow class-mate. The problem is this person goes under a codename with Simon left guessing as to who he may be. Aided by his friends, Simon attempts to discover his current crush and come out to his family.

Although walking a predictable path, ‘Love, Simon’ doesn’t have any false sincerity. Many of the situations and feelings Simon has ring true as he tries to solve his problems. Learning about love, betrayal and hope, Simon’s journey from the film’s beginning is interesting. Whilst occasionally indulging in the usual American sentimentality, the emotions the characters feel seem real. The performances are all solid with a great 80’s-style soundtrack capturing the bright days for which Simon longs.

Greg Berlanti directs with compassion, making ‘Love, Simon’ feel more personal than most. Berlanti ensures the comedy and drama are effectively mixed allowing the movie’s themes to clearly stand out. The concept of having a mystery for audiences to solve also enables them to remain invested in proceedings with the reveal not as easy as expected.

‘Love, Simon’ may be a little overlong and familiar, but it marks its territory amidst a glut of ‘gay romantic despair’ films. Its optimism makes it more daring than others and charts a unique course in the teen-angst genre. With marriage equality now a reality, hopefully the issues Simon faces will gradually fade with respectful acceptance being something all should learn.

Rating out of 10: 7

Bridget Jones’s Baby

Based on Helen Fielding’s novels, the Bridget Jones series has been popular. There’s something people relate to with Bridget continually determined to improve her life. The heroine has spun off from the pages to screen in two previously successful films. Twelve years after her last silver screen outing, she returns in ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’. As fluffily undemanding as ever, her exploits conjure gentle mirth instead of hilarity. Fans of the easy-going adventures should be happy with the newest offering challenging Bridget’s steely resolve.

The eternally love-lorn Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) is in a quandary. Recently breaking up with her ‘true love’ Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), she aims to focus her energies on her job as a news producer. Thinking life is going well, she meets handsome American Jack (Patrick Dempsey). Falling for his charms, Bridget learns she is pregnant. Unsure if Jack or Darcy is the father, Bridget’s life is thrown into a tail-spin while the men in her life battle to provide her with her longed-for ‘happily ever after’.

‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ plays like a romantic comic-book. Played in very broad strokes, it’s a fantastical comedy with cartoonish characters and ridiculous situations. It almost nearly doesn’t work but due to the performances it passes. Making it succeed is its abundance of charm recalling the likes of ‘Sabrina’ and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Those films had strong female leads and while Zellweger is no Audrey Hepburn her winning personality and witty script overcomes any blemishes.

Of the cast, it’s Dempsey who should receive the most praise. He has the unenviable task of slotting into a film filled with established characters whilst making his own. He more than ably achieves this with his scenes opposite the always refined Firth crackling with genteel tension. Sharon Maguire directs with assurance, filming scenes with a glossily colourful palette. The humour is amusing without being crass and makes an effort to raise a few chuckles using wit than cringe-worthy vulgarity.

It may have been a long time between films but ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ is a welcome return of a beloved heroine. It may not provide constant laughs but it has a heart that many in the genre lack. No doubt it will cement the character’s popularity with the love-struck in the audience sure to sympathise with her predicaments.

Rating out of 10: 6