Netflix is on a roll with successful rom-coms, and “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is no exception.
The story begins with Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) reading a romance novel entitled “The Forbidden Kiss.” In place of the main characters, Lara Jean envisions herself kissing her nextdoor neighbor Josh (Israel Broussard), who also happens to be dating her older, college-bound sister Margot (Janel Parish) — a forbidden kiss indeed. Lara Jean, we later learn, spends most of her time daydreaming about love, because she’s too afraid to pursue it in her real life. Her philosophy — though cliched — is, “The more people you let into your life, the more that can just walk right out.”
For Lara Jean, this fear of anything “real” has caused her to bottle up her emotions. Instead of telling all the boys she’s loved before how she feels, she writes them letters, puts them in a box her deceased mother left her and places the box into the deep recesses of her closet. There are five letters in total: Kenny Donati from camp, Peter Kavinsky from seventh grade, Lucas Krapf from freshman Homecoming, John Ambrose from Model UN, and — you guessed it — Josh Sanderson.
Being Lara Jean’s most secret possessions, it’s pertinent that nobody else knows about the letters, and keeping her feelings hidden seems like a feasible act. That is, until they get sent out. Suddenly Lara Jean’s high school experience is flipped upside down. She goes from the girl who has no one to sit with at lunch — her sister’s left for college and her only friend Chris (Madeleine Arthur) has a Subway addiction she has to feed off-campus — to having the wildest year of her high school career yet.
In an attempt to prove to Margot’s boyfriend that she no longer has feelings for him, Lara Jean kisses Peter (Noah Centineo), a recipient of one of her letters. Flattered, Peter initially tries to make it clear to Lara Jean that he isn’t interested, as he and his current girlfriend Gen are “in a really weird place right now.” However, once news of their kiss gets out, Peter realizes he can make Gen jealous and, by some irrefutable teenage-angst logic, fix his relationship with Gen. Lara Jean sees this as an opportunity to convince Josh she’s no longer in love with him, and reluctantly agrees. So the journey begins.
Adapted from the book of the same name by Jenny Han, the movie stays true to the general storyline, only adjusting minor details. Of course, the film doesn’t provide a groundbreaking take on the high school-centered rom-com or rom-coms in general — you have the cute, likeable main actress, the attractive male lead, the funny best friend, the “will-they-won’t-they” tension and so much more.
At times, the dialogue is too heavy-handed, such as the aforementioned scene in which Lara Jean summatively says she avoids relationships in order to avoid connections where she can get hurt. There are also cringeworthy scenes attempting to depict teenagers’ use of social media. The acting isn’t in any way revolutionary, but it is, in a word, functional.
Although “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” doesn’t present an earth shattering take on the rom-com, the film is delightful to watch. Despite its predictable ending, there are hints that we may be expecting a sequel. If that’s the case, I am more than ready for it.
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