Romance Revitalized: To All The Boys I've Loved Before
In our continuation of looking at some new romance movies, we will be returning to Netflix for the entire month. Last week we started with a romantic drama in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and this week we pivot into one of the most popular teen romantic comedies in recent years. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was directed by Susan Johnson and adapted by Sofia Alvarez from Jenny Han’s novel of the same name. The film follows teenager Lara Jean Covey as her old love letters are unintentionally sent out to her previous crushes. The film stars Lana Condor as Lara Jean and Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky. Some of the film’s supporting cast is comprised of Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Emilija Baranac, Israel Broussard, and John Corbett.
The film begins with a look at Lara Jean Covey, a quiet teenager who loves romance novels and is about to start her junior year of high school. She lives with her father and two sisters, and her older sister, Margot, is about to leave for college in Scotland. Before Margot leaves, she breaks up with her boyfriend, Josh, who Lara Jean has had a crush on for some time. Through this event, Lara Jean explains in narration that she writes love letters when her emotions are intense and saves them in a box in her closet. After Margot leaves, Lara Jean has a difficult start to her year, where she feels out of place. Her junior year becomes more exciting, though, when her letters end up being sent out to all five recipients. One of the recipients of her letters, Peter, initially rebuffs her but then sees an opportunity to pretend to date Lara Jean in order to make his former girlfriend jealous. Of course, complications arise as this fake relationship begins to produce real feelings.
I just want to begin by saying that this film is utterly charming. The characters are sweet, and the story is as well. In the movie, Lara Jean references Sixteen Candles, and I can see a lot of influences from John Hughes throughout. It is seen not just through a callback to a movie he directed but also in cinematography choices and the overall emotional backbone of the film. It has a certain 80’s nostalgia to it, and while I did not read the source material, I thought the screenplay was well written. The pacing was good, and there are many clever moments in addition to the funny and heartfelt moments that come with this genre. Additionally, there is some depth to this story with its deeper themes and thoughtful conversations between the lead characters.
While the story is cute and fun, it’s the characters and the performances that make To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before stand out among Netflix’s many choices. The supporting cast benefits from John Corbett’s performance as Dr. Covey and his loving, often comical interactions with his daughters. Anna Cathcart is pretty funny as the youngest Covey sister, Kitty, who pushes Lara Jean to be social. However, the shining stars are the two leads. Condor’s performance as Lara Jean is often enchanting and understated, and she completely nails the more comedic aspects of the character. Seriously, her facial expressions are the best, and she is the one who makes Lara Jean such a sweet and lovable character. Additionally, her co-lead Noah Centineo brings a lot of heart to the character of Peter and bucks against the stereotype of the jerky jock. Honestly, he paints Peter as a compassionate and sometimes insightful character, and the movie is all the better for it. The two characters can discuss the pain of losing a parent through death or divorce and openly discuss the challenges of being in a relationship. Of course, the two characters work so well because Condor and Centineo have great chemistry, and they leave the audience wanting to see them together again soon.
Overall, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is an incredibly sweet and charming film. It is predictable in terms of how the story unfolds, but it changes the narrative by defying certain character tropes. Also, its callbacks to John Hughes’ films and the teenage rom coms of the eighties really does give it a nice flair. Netflix doesn’t always knock it out of the park with their films, but I think that To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is worth a watch. It is undeniably one of the best feel good movies streaming right now, so be sure to check it out on Netflix sometime soon.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.