Based on the novel of the same name, Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a predictable yet weirdly entertaining coming-of-age romance.
Netflix Original film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara Jean Covey, a 16-year-old girl who has a non-existent love life. She has suppressed all of her teenage feelings in previous altercations with boys in the form of many love letters, which she keeps locked away in a box in her room. Her excuse for retaining the letters is more of a self-learnt exercise to understand her emotions in the most extreme raw state. Lara is a young character who is astutely self-aware for her age.
Before immersing myself into the love story, I researched and found it useful to learn that To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is based on the 2014 young adult romance novel by American author Jenny Han. The lead character is described as a sixteen-year-old half-Korean, half-Caucasian girl. I swiftly gazed on IMDb and learned that the actress, Lana Condor, is a Vietnamese-American who grew up in Chicago. Which is close enough, I suppose.
Anyway, once I calmed down at the lack of truly accurate representation, I became unexpectedly engrossed in a whimsical narrative about a young girl learning the ropes of high school romances. Predictably, leaving heart-throbbing love letters locked away about previous crushes is not a good idea, so when they are revealed to the school and more agonisingly, the boys they are about, her entire love life unravels before her eyes. I found it disappointing that To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before did not hone in on the frustrating situation the character found herself to be in; the movie mulls over it slightly as Lara comes to terms with the fact her past feelings are now public, yet once those scenes are rushed and finalised, it quickly becomes a routine love story.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is really about an unlucky girl turned lucky, finding herself in a situation where one of her former crushes takes a deep interest in her. The Netflix film has a slight Insatiable vibe, with Lara becoming immediately noticed by her peers.
Unfortunately, the movie missed a dramatical element, as the story significantly avoids the fact that her sister, who is conveniently in Scotland, is unaware that one of the letters is about yesterday’s ex. The novel may not touch on it strongly either, I just found it interesting that it was pertinent to the plot, yet that scenario is barely addressed. Peter Kavinsky is one of the recipients of the love letters. He is cooly trying to get his ex back and wants to use a pretend relationship with Lara to try and win her back. He sells himself as a leverage man but the performance and dialogue do not hide the fact that he is obviously interested. This love story is all too familiar; we’ve seen it all before.
Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a soppy, unimaginative yet somehow entertaining story about a young girl experiencing the coming-of-age romance. I just expected more from a story that sells the premise that all her embarrassing love letters have become public.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.