Before you continue to read this, I want to say that I’ve watched this movie twice already, and I’m slowly but surely leaning towards a third because it is that good. There are so many scenes that have now become my favorites, and rewatching them makes me feel like a little girl excited to grab some ice cream. There’s been a shortage in romcoms lately, a fact that my heart cannot take. It’s been one of my favorite genres for as long as I can remember, and one I incessantly browse on Netflix on nights when I just want to lay in bed and watch something that’ll make me smile and feel fuzzy inside. So you can only imagine my excitement when Netflix dropped To All the Boys I've Loved Before, a film adaptation of Jenny Han’s YA novel.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before tells the story of Lara Jean (played by Lana Condor), an introverted teen who loves reading about romance and fantasizes about finding the “one” despite her fear of telling her crushes she likes them (can 100% relate). In order to deal with the frustrations of liking someone and finding a way to move on, she decides to write them letters (which she never mails), and hides them away in a box gifted to her by her deceased mother. But soon, Lara Jean discovers that all five letters have been sent out. Unfortunately, one of those letters is dedicated to her longtime neighbor Josh (Israel Broussard), who happens to be her sister Margot’s (played by Janel Parrish) ex-boyfriend. Lara Jean always had a good friendship with Josh, and in an effort to avoid dealing with Josh, she decides to create a fake relationship with a boy named Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), who also has received one of her letters and is trying to make the girl who dumped him jealous.
This fake relationship reminds me of some of my favorite romantic comedies, from She’s All That, to Drives Me Crazy, to Can’t Buy Me Love. What’s different about this film is that the leading female character doesn’t feel the need to change who she is. Throughout the film she embraces her individuality and loves all the small things about herself, whether it’s baking cupcakes for her sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart), reading romance novels, or wearing a pair of boots that someone else might not like.
What’s even more refreshing about this film is that the leading character is played by an Asian-American girl, a representation that’s not always present on screen. Her ethnicity isn’t what defines her or made out to be the only thing that matters, but instead is a fraction of who she is. “With Asian-Americans actors, specifically, there’s been fewer opportunities for them in TV and film, and fewer that have the ability to actually make a career out of it. It becomes a bit of a chicken and egg situation, where they’re like, ‘Oh, but they’re not famous names,’ but they haven’t had a chance to be in anything yet, either. You want to give people a chance to grow and evolve as well.’’ said Lara Condor in an interview with Teen Vogue.
Lara Jean and Peter’s on-screen chemistry is rejuvenating. The storyline allows them time to gradually get to know each other, learn each other’s quirks, and get a sense of what makes them vulnerable and scared. Most rom-coms skip all that and immediately jump to the “we are now a couple” stage, and we miss all the real and not-so-simple aspects of getting to know someone. Some of my favorite scenes are when Lara Jean and Peter talk about their parents. In one specific scene, they’re both in the middle of Peter’s kitchen and they’re listening to each other talk with undivided attention. She opens up about losing her mom, and he trusts her enough to talk about when his dad abandoned him.
“I’ve never told anyone that before. It’s actually really nice to have someone to talk to about this stuff—you’re a good listener,” Lara Jean says to Peter.
He awkwardly responds, “Yeah? Why thank you, you are too.” This exchange made me giggle like a four-year-old, and my heart was somehow fulfilled.
Peter isn’t your typical obnoxious, inconsiderate jock who pulls pranks. I honestly expected for his character to at some point become this cliche, but I was genuinely surprised and happy when he turned out to be a loving, vulnerable, and charming character, and Stan Twitter seems to agree. I’m sure “I need a Peter Kavinsky in my life” tweets have already begun flooding your timeline. I love how he makes Lara Jean his phone background, tells her to leave her hair down because she looks pretty, takes silly selfies with her, and drives all the way across town to buy her favorite Korean yogurts for her. My favorite moment, though, is when they’re on the bus and he asks her if he could use her as pillow because he’s tired. You better believe I instantly died at the very moment he snuggled his way in.
What really ties the movie together is its cinematography, fashion, and soundtrack. From the cafe in which they grabbed milkshakes and fries, to the moonlit hot tub scene, to the school’s autumnal vibes when they sign the contract, to the moments in Lara Jean’s bedroom, the film’s earthy, vibrant tones really gave the scenes a vintage feel. All of this helped to emphasize that this is a classic, quirky teen romcom with raw and vulnerable characters.
The fashion choices perfectly capture each character’s personality, too. Lara Jean’s introverted and romantic side is captured through her favorite scrunchie, vintage attire, and socks and boots combo. Peter’s cool and easygoing charm is captured through casual t-shirts, sports hoodies, and relaxed bottoms; Kitty’s sassiness and confident disposition are embodied through girl power tees and feminist jewelry.
The indie soundtrack is even better, because each song captures the mood perfectly without missing a beat. You can find songs like “I Like Me Better” by Lauv, “You’re Not Good Enough” by Blood Orange, and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears for Fears featured in the film. You might want to start writing these songs down, because I assure you you'll want to make a playlist immediately after watching the movie.
There are so many things to love about this film that it became a trending topic the day of its premiere and continues to be a topic of conversation. At the end of the day, Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky are two dorks who want someone to understand them and be loved. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before reminds us to not be afraid to say how we feel, to be open to love, and most importantly, to be ourselves.