Based on the book with the same name by Jenny Han, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before hit Netflix on Aug 17. I was super excited to watch it, having loved the book, and was not disappointed: it definitely lived up to my expectations!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara Jean, who writes love letters to all of the boys she’s crushed on. There are five in total, and they’re one of her most important possessions, kept hidden in a box with a bow. They’ll never be read by anyone but LJ… until they all, somehow, get sent.
The film is easy to get along with, and pretty much the nightmare of everyone who’s written a letter that should never have been sent but was (fun fact, friends: this has actually happened to me. *sigh*).
It’s cutesy, with pinks and greens its springish aesthetic, and the typical cast of teenage film characters: the main girl who’s happily unpopular but thrust into the spotlight; the jock who’s actually a nice guy; the mean girl who used to be her best friend; her new best friend who’s indie and owns it; the supportive, well-meaning but not always doing it right family; and the guy next door.
Phew. But, although these are all so frickin’ tropey, only “the mean girl who used to be her best friend” felt really forced and fake to me, so the scriptwriters obviously did something right. I knew that I was watching tropes come to life on film… but it really didn’t feel like it. It feels like these characters are all the same as you’ve seen before, but actually feeling real (for once).
Lara Jean is one of my favourite characters, because she’s just so damn relatable. A lot of critics have rated this lower because it’s a teen film, but that’s why I love it – teenagers like Lara Jean are figuring themselves out, making mistakes and having fun. She’s such a feisty character, constantly underestimated, and discusses racism, grief, and sexism in the film so, so well. I really adore her!
Peter Kalinsky is an excellent matching character (where can I find myself a Peter Kalinsky??) and whilst the slow-burning chemistry between the two characters on screen felt a little forced and fake in places, I still enjoyed the romance.
I think that what I really love about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is that it’s a story that isn’t out of place in the real world. It isn’t like The DUFF for example, where the romance just wasn’t a-happening, and the characters don’t do particularly remarkable things or hold information back unnecessarily. Lara Jean is questioned for not just sitting down and talking to the boys, and for keeping the love letters back, which never happens in a fictional story! It’s just a story that could be based in your secondary school or college, and unless you were one of the four or five main characters, the story would probably pass you by and it might just be a piece of gossip that you hear. There’s no declarations, nothing that makes you roll your eyes and think “that’s lovely and all, but it’d never happen”. It’s just so believable.
Overall, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a cutesy, happy, romantic teenage film with unexpected letters as it’s turning point. I will give it 4.5/5 and would definitely recommend both the film and the book.