Review by Sean Boelman
There is a relatively sizable following of people who adore the 2018 film Love, Simon, a cute but conventional LGBTQ+ coming-of-age tale. Initially intended for Disney+ but streaming on Hulu because of its less “family-friendly” content, the new spin-off/sequel series Love, Victor takes those elements from the movie that worked well and adds to them, resulting in a watch that is even more personal.
Set years after the events of Love, Simon in the same high school, the series follows a new student in school as he navigates issues with his friends and family, all the while questioning his sexual orientation. Thankfully, although the title would imply otherwise, the series doesn’t follow the same gimmick as the film, having a completely different and arguably more authentic voice of its own.
Something of note is that the series does hold the movie on a ridiculously high pedestal, even making jokes about it in the first episode. It’s almost as if the series is afraid of falling victim to the shadow of its predecessor, so it tries to reclaim it to mixed effect. The show is at its best when it embraces its nature as a heartfelt adolescent soap opera of sorts.
The serial format here allows the series to explore issues of sexuality with a lot more depth than a film did, and it works quite well. Whereas Love, Simon was about getting the acceptance of others, the protagonist’s arc in Love, Victor is more about self-acceptance, a part of the experience that isn’t always approached in a nuanced way like this.
This series also fills some of the blindspots left by the movie, such as issues of race and class. Although casting a Latino protagonist may have initially seemed like a diversity play, the series does a very good job of exploring these themes in a satisfying way. The protagonist’s conservative Latino family plays a big role in his journey of figuring himself out, as it would in real life.
Michael Cimino is a very charming lead role, bringing a lot of natural charisma to the character. His chemistry with the rest of the cast, particularly his sidekick played by Anthony Turpel (who deserves to break out after this) is excellent. Performances from Mason Gooding, James Martinez, and Ana Ortiz in the supporting cast are all compelling. And Nick Robinson returns in an inessential but enjoyable role as the narrator.
One of the things that made Love, Simon stand out was its undeniable level of energy, and that isn’t as much the case here, as the series takes a much more conventional young adult television format. That said, the soundtrack is still filled with catchy pop tunes that are infectiously fun and give the show some narrative momentum.
Love, Victor is the rare TV spin-off that may actually be superior to its source material. With plenty of things that work well and only a few things to fix, it will be interesting to see how season two continues this story.
Love, Victor streams on Hulu beginning June 17.