Love, Simon is a US romantic comedy drama, based on a book called Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
The story concerns a teenage boy who begins an email correspondence with a stranger, during which they discuss their feelings of apprehension about telling their family and friends that they are gay. A classmate threatens to expose Simon's identity if he does not help set him up with the girl he has a crush on, who happens to be Simon's friend.
The distributor submitted Love, Simon to the BBFC in January 2018 with a request for a PG category; a specific request can sometimes be helpful in giving the BBFC an idea of the target audience for the film.
It already had a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (the MPAA), that cited 'thematic elements, sexual references, language and teen partying' as the reasons for the rating.
As well as frequent mild and moderate bad language, there is a single use of strong language ('f**k'), meaning the film could not be classified at the requested PG. There are also some moderate sex references, including a line about a girl giving a boy an 'HJ' in a swimming pool, and one student telling another, 'It looks like you got gangbanged by a TJ Maxx'. BBFC compliance officers decided this dialogue was too crude for PG. At the PG category, the BBFC Guidelines allow 'mild sex references and innuendo only'.
Some characters express discriminatory views, using slurs such as 'fag' and 'fruity'. In one scene, Simon is humiliated when two students perform a homophobic dance in the school canteen. However, they are immediately and sternly reprimanded by a teacher. Importantly, these discriminatory views are not endorsed by the film as a whole, and the students' behaviour is highlighted as being unacceptable. The emphasis of the story is on Simon finding the confidence to be himself and to tell his family and friends about his sexuality, so it's unlikely that anybody would find any reinforcement of discriminatory views.
One other issue identified by the Compliance Officers who viewed Love, Simon was references to drugs and substance abuse. There is a scene in which a teacher warns students not to 'huff' the paint cans they are using to decorate a stage set. Another scene contains a passing reference to a boy marijuana. The lack of detail and comic context meant these verbal references could be easily contained at 12A.
BBFC staff introduced screenings of Love, Simon at the 2018 Into Film Festival in the UK, leading talks on the classification issues in the film and the BBFC age ratings and ratings information.