By: Juno von Palko
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is another smash hit within the teen rom-com sphere, but how does it translate into a Netflix movie?
Lara Jean Covey is a high school student who is a hopeless romantic but has never been in a relationship. Since middle school, she has secretly written five love letters to her crushes and stored them away in a hatbox. Her fantasies become an unwelcome reality when she discovers her letters were mailed to each crush, particularly Peter Kavinsky (her former best friend’s ex) and Josh Sanderson (her older sister’s ex). As Lara Jean tries to untangle herself from the web of antics that spawn from her situation, she gets a taste of how messy and exciting teenage romance can be.
What makes this film so charming is how organic its plot is. I was never invested in popular romances such as the Twilight saga or The Fault in Our Stars because of how hard they tried to differentiate themselves from your typical teen romance. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before does not need to throw in fantastic twists or forced drama to hook its audience. It plays by traditional YA romance rules without sacrificing the charm of its premise.
The story also succeeds in its depiction of high schoolers. A common flaw in most teen-centric media (e.g., Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why) is how artificial the teenagers themselves are. Many of their archetypes consist of snark and cynicism but no sense of realism. The characters in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before feel real. None of them seem quirky or conflicted to the point of dramatization. They seem like real teenagers you would have grown up with, which makes them relatable and interesting.
A talented cast further elevates the film. Lana Condor of X-Men: Apocalypse fame is spot-on in the lead role. She carries the film with a genuine heart and charisma. The other female actresses compliment the film, as well. All of their characters are funny and engaging while still behaving like people you would have known in high school. A minor problem I had with the two male crushes was their lack of personality. It felt like they only existed to be love interests without character development independent of the story’s romance. However, similar to teen films like Sixteen Candles, this film is not bogged down by that. It offers enough personality that a small quibble is not enough to derail its intended purpose.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before succeeds in what it was trying to accomplish but also offers more than the genre often provides. It is a sweet, heartwarming throwback to the classic John Hughes era of teen films. Check this out if you want to fall in love with high school romances all over again.