The Rom-Com Is Definitely Back, And This Film Is Proof: A Review of Netflix’s ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’
They say 2018 has seen the comeback of the rom-com, and Netflix has definitely played a large role in its resurrection. Its release following much-raved about Netflix original films The Kissing Booth and Set It Up, Jenny Han’s New York Times best-selling novel finally comes to life, much to the delight of fans across the globe (myself included!). Director Susan Johnson’s film, however, is not just for those who’ve hotly anticipated this adaptation. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before has something for everyone, and what we love best is how much it reminds us of lighter, easier times. As if those feelings never left, it takes us back to when the simplest of gestures gave us the biggest of thrills—when little things like holding hands, a kiss on the cheek, or a crush telling us we looked pretty made us plenty giddy. As the charming cast portrays Jenny Han’s characters down to a tee, we find that the film will surely leave both teens and former teens alike with the goofiest smiles on their faces!
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Do you remember your first love? Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor) does, and she’s got the handwritten love letters to prove it—a total of five, to be exact. From her first kiss, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), all the way down to the crush she’s been trying desperately to shake off, Lara Jean has written each one of the guys who’s stolen her heart a heartfelt letter. But here’s the plot twist: none of them has ever had any idea, and the letters were only ever for her to keep. And to make things even more exciting (or dreadful?), the very last one she wrote just happened to be for her older sister Margot’s (Janel Parrish) boyfriend, Josh Sanders (Israel Broussard).
The film opens at the Covey household—a single-parent, three-sibling home consisting of sixteen-year-old, Lara Jean; her widowed dad, Dan (John Corbett—we always knew Sex and the City’s Aidan would make the perfect father!); her older sister, Margot; and their littlest sister, Kitty (Anna Cathcart). As Margot departs for university in Scotland and breaks things off with Josh in the process, we’re all thinking the same thing—will Lara Jean take her chance now that she has Josh all to herself?
In a nightmarish turn of events, Lara Jean’s secret love letters are mysteriously mailed out to their addressees. To her utmost horror, Josh has read his letter, and Lara Jean does the first thing that comes to mind—she jumps on Peter (a love letter recipient himself, he had come to confront her), and their first kiss from all those years ago quickly becomes far from their last.
The two pretend to be a couple, and quirky, introverted Lara Jean is forced out of her comfort zone. Charming, easygoing Peter plays his role perfectly—he holds her hand as they walk the school halls, uses her photo as his phone’s screensaver, slips her sweet handwritten love notes, and even wins her dad's and younger sister’s approval. Over (fake) dates, their relationship goes beyond the surface as they bond over their experiences of loss—his parents’ divorce and her mother’s passing. As they get closer, they play this charade flawlessly—to the point that Josh even shows a hint of envy.
When the film reaches its famously steamy hot tub scene, we all can’t help but wonder—could Lara Jean and Peter’s fictitious relationship turn real? (Do we want it to?) Or is her heart still with the boy next door? (Is Josh still the better match for Lara Jean?) For those who haven’t read the novel, we leave that up to you to discover!
Fellow fans of the novel, I’m sure the question on your minds is this: does the film live up to the book? As is common with novel-to-film adaptations, a few things were altered, and admittedly, the movie had us searching for a few more of our favorite moments from Jenny Han’s novel—but it still left us smiling and satisfied, and for that, we loved it! Secondly—is a sequel in the works? No hint has been given yet, but the ending has definitely allowed for the possibility! We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.
‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ will be available for streaming on Friday, August 17.
Screengrabs from To All The Boys I've Loved Before Official Trailer