I’m a big fan of romantic comedies and a definite hopeless romantic. These kinds of movies have always held a very special place in my heart, especially when I was a teenager. I loved envisioning Heath Ledger singing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” while dancing across the football stadium bleachers for me (and I know I’m not the only one who dreamt of that!) Alas, that didn’t happen, but that scene from “10 Things I Hate About You” remains one of my favorites and still brings a smile to my face every time I watch it. It has a lasting effect, and THAT is a sign of a good rom-com. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” tugs at those same heartstrings.
This film is based on the young adult novel written by Jenny Han, who also helped write the script for the film alongside Sofia Alvarez. It follows a teenage girl named Lara Jean (Lana Condor) who keeps love letters to all the boys she’s ever loved in a little teal box that belonged to her mother before she passed away. One day, the five letters get out. A fellow classmate named Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), who received one of the letters, confronts her about it and comes up with a plan for the both of them: form a fake relationship. This way, Lara Jean can buy some time to get over her sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh, who also received a letter, and Peter will be able to make his ex-girlfriend jealous.
This movie has that sweet butterflies-in-your-stomach type of joy that comes with being young and in love. It’s beautifully shot (and I do mean BEAUTIFUL, it’s like a pastel wonderland), with characters that you’ll instantly fall in love with. Lana Condor and Noah Centineo absolutely shine as Lara Jean and Peter. Lara Jean is bright and expressive with a wonderfully comedic side, and Noah nails the role of dreamy, and occasionally annoying, jock. What this movie brings to the table that many romantic comedies stumble over is the emotional complexity between its two leads. It takes intense feelings and emotions and handles them gingerly and with a compassionate execution. Lara Jean and Peter bond over many different things. It varies from what movies they enjoy to their respective losses of a parent. This escalation into very vulnerable conversation helps to keep the viewer invested in their story, even if we already know the outcome.
I also have a great deal of admiration for this film and what it stands for in the grand scheme of Hollywood. This picture was released two days after “Crazy Rich Asians”, another romantic comedy that I fell in LOVE with, and both made a gigantic step in the right direction for Asian American representation in film. “Crazy Rich Asians” is the first film in 25 years to star an all Asian American cast since “The Joy Luck Club”, and “To All the Boys” is the first mainstream teen romance to have an Asian American actress as its lead. These films are all part of the Hollywood revolution taking place right before our very eyes, and it has me wanting to shout from the rooftops how happy I am to see it happening.
For me, this movie radiates John Hughes vibes. It was simple, yet engaging. It’ll have you smiling from ear to ear as you soak in the wholesomeness. Please give us a sequel, Netflix!