First look Disney+ UK TV review: Love, Victor (Season 1)
Ivan Radford | On 28, Feb 2021
Episode 1 and 2 of Season 1 are available on Disney+ Star at launch, with new episodes arriving weekly on Fridays.
“Screw you for having the world’s most accepting parents.” That’s the sound of Victor (Michael Cimino) writing to Simon in Love, Victor, a follow-up to the 2018 teen comedy. That film was a quietly groundbreaking step forward for LGBTQ+ representation, with the closeted Simon given prime billing in a big screen high school flick, an equal to the countless straight protagonists of teen comedies past. Positioning a coming-out narrative as centre stage in a mainstream studio comedy was a landmark, and a charming, sweet one to boot.
Love, Victor, which debuted on Hulu last year, initially looks to be more of the same, as we meet Victor Salazar, who has just moved to the area with his family and is struggling to find his feet in a new town. But while the first-day-at-Creekwood-High-School starting point feels like it’s covering the same territory, what emerges in the opening episodes is something more interesting and complex. Victor’s first Instagram message to Simon, who serves as part penpal, part mentor-by-voiceover, is a tirade of resentment and anger, annoyed at how easy and straightforward Simon had it in the movie.
It’s a welcome rebuff to the film, acknowledging the way that it played things safe to fit in with mainstream studio flick convention. With more screentime to explore in more depth the challenges of learning to accept oneself as well as find acceptance elsewhere, Love, Victor begins with a promising mission statement to dwell more on the rocks thrown up by the bumpy coming-of-age road.
Creators Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger, who reunite for this sequel, set their stall out from the off, as Victor’s family come with their own problems and baggage, from religious traditions to their placement lower down the financial ladder. “Marriages are hard sometimes, even the good ones,” acknowledges his mum (Ana Ortiz), as she and Victor’s dad (James Martinez) both feel the pressure of a new start too. Even Victor’s siblings, Pilar (Isabella Ferreira) and Adrian (Mateo Fernandez), look set for something meatier than supporting comic relief, with Pilar dealing with the difficulty of trying to maintain a long-distance relationship with a boy back home in Texas.
At school, the ensemble expands to include the uber-cool Mia (Rachel Naomi Hilson) and her best friend Lake (Bebe Wood), both of whom take an interest in the new kid on the block. Also eager, and slightly more awkward, is Felix Westen (Anthony Turpel), Victor’s neighbour who swiftly becomes a loyal friend. While Felix inevitably develops a thing for Lake, Victor’s own feelings are commendably complex, as his voiceover acknowledges that some guys like guys, some guys like girls and some like both – and Victor’s uncertainty, anxiety and fear are all endearingly captured by Cimino, who not only swoons over Benji (George Sear), an openly gay student, but also finds himself falling into a flirtatious rhythm with Mia.
Taunts from others on the basketball team and Victor’s envy of Benji’s apparently accepted status within school – as proclaimed loudly by head teacher Ms Albright (Natasha Rothwell, reprising her role from Love, Simon) – make it clear that just because one person has come out already, it doesn’t make it any easier for someone else, and that everyone’s story and situation is different. Sear’s smiling, radiant object of desire glides through the corridors, only pausing to make steaming cups of coffee (in one particularly amusing scene), in a way that might seem unlikely but also seems entirely in keeping with how Victor would see him from afar. Love, Victor is a charmingly familiar and entertaining teen comedy, but it’s also a show that understands the way that we can all picture other people’s lives as simple and perfect, and with 10 episodes to go – and a second season already greenlit – there’s hope that it’ll show us just how complicated they can really get.
Love, Victor is available on Disney+, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.