Netflix have produced their fair share of teenage rom-coms. From The Kissing Booth to Alex Strangelove, it’s undeniable that their range is diverse, but lacking imagination. So, when Netflix’s latest release, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, popped up under recently added, I didn’t expect a lot from it. I can safely say, I was pleasantly surprised.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows Lara-Jean (Lana Condor), a teenage girl who has never been in a relationship before. She is invisible at high school and, when her older sister Margot (Janel Parrish) moves away to attend university, she is left friendless too. However, over the years, Lara-Jean has written a love letter to every boy she has ever had a crush on and has kept them in a box, hidden away. Then, somehow: they are sent to all of the boys she has ever been in love with.
This movie is a quirky, colourful, ray-of-sunshine from start to finish. Lara-Jean’s entire family are the kind that you wish yours was always like: perpetually happy and, somehow, always level-headed with each other. This is a movie that gives you permanent butterflies throughout its entire duration.
Lara-Jean is a wonderful character to lead this movie. She’s quirky, she’s witty, and she isn’t afraid to be her own person. She is, however, afraid. Much like every other teenage girl, she is worried about the future, about fitting in, and about falling in love.
Yes, this may be a slightly overused storyline but, as the movie proves, it handles it in a fairly unique way. As we follow Lara-Jean into her ‘fake’ relationship with super popular Peter (one of the recipients of her multiple secret love letters), we watch her grow and develop as a person, figuring out her strengths and weaknesses, her likes and dislikes.
This is all set to a background of 1980s sounding modern pop music, pop culture references and leafy green suburbs – kind of like a John Hughes movie. Surprisingly enough, 16 Candles is the movie from which Lara-Jean gets all of her ideas about love from. Who knew that Jake Ryan putting his hand in a girl’s back pocket could be so influential?
However, this is exactly what gives this movie its charm; it draws on those movie stereotypes from the rom-coms we know and love, and it puts a modern twist on it. The obvious cliques, the weird best friend, the boy next door. This movie is like a hug from a stranger: it’s warm and familiar, but in a different and unexpected way.
One of the best parts of this movie is its representation. Netflix has generally been fairly good when it comes to including people of colour and different ethnicities in its movies. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is led by Vietnamese-American actress, Lana Condor, as well as having a single father family.
With the influx of minority led films hitting our screens, such as Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, it is becoming apparent that the movie industry is finally listening to what the public wants: to see themselves on the screen. The inclusion of different ethnicites, not just as minor characters, but as lead roles, doesn’t just help the imbalance in Hollywood; it also provides people with role models they can relate to and that look like them.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a perfect example of this. It is minority led, and it helps to spread a really powerful message to teenage girls, as well as people of all ages and genders. This is a movie about self discovery through making mistakes, rather than self-discovery through rose tinted glasses. It’s about not being afraid to live our lives, and worrying that we won’t meet our own expectations.
That is what is so refreshing about this movie. Granted, the plot isn’t overly ambitious, but it is different in the fact that it focuses on picking yourself back up, rather than never falling down in the first place. As far as rom-com’s go, this movie ain’t half bad.
So, if you’re fancying a feel-good movie that will give you butterflies, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved is definitely worth a watch. It will make you smile for a good while afterwards, too.