To All the Films I’ve Seen Before: One Romcom Fan’s Take on To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

The new Netflix hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, directed by Susan Johnson and based on a novel by Jenny Han, tells the heartfelt story of Lara Jean Covey, played perfectly by Lana Condor, a junior in high school confronting an issue that plagues so many her age: boys. In her case, five of her former crushes, who accidentally receive the love letters she wrote them while deep in the throes of girlish passion and developing feelings. The disastrous list includes her older sister’s ex and former bff, Josh (Israel Broussard) and “Peter with the beautiful eyes” from middle school. She decides to fake a relationship with the latter,  Peter Kavinsky, (Noah Centineo) in order to convince another boy that she doesn’t like him and to get revenge on Gen (Emilija Baranac), her former best friend and his ex. This relationship eventually poses a question as old as romantic comedies themselves: can you really fake feelings for someone? This movie takes LJ through many awkward moments as she figures out her feelings towards Josh, Peter, and eventually herself.

Though the movie as a whole was very sweet, I felt that the characterization was wildly inconsistent. Characters like LJ, Peter, and Kitty are developed throughout the film in a way that draws the audience closer to them as people and clarifies the relationships within the film. LJ’s struggles and her changing relationships and feelings are enticing and relatable. Peter’s genuine kindness pairs with his imperfection to make him beautifully frustrating and wholly engaging. Kitty, LJ’s sassy middle school sister, shows how much she truly cares for her sister’s happiness, a shining example of the power of familial bonds.

     (Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash)

However, slightly less present characters have a marked lack of characterization, making them seem very bland and cardboard. Gen, the villain of the piece, is only developed at the very end of the story and spends the rest majority of the film as a plastic mean girl. Josh, who is supposed to be a major source of conflict for LJ, has almost no individuality and is unfortunately completely forgettable for the entire middle of the movie. LJ’s best friend Chris is essentially just the “weird girl” and LJ’s comment to her about being used to get back at Gen is never resolved, leaving their friendship on a swinging bridge seemingly forgotten by the writers. Finally, Dr. Covey fills the cookie cutter for “fairly cool dad doing his best.”

However, To All the Boys does a very good job of portraying the uncomfortable and often awkward process of figuring out feelings in high school. Surprisingly, the film also addresses deeper themes, like fear of commitment and vulnerability. The way this film portrayed these was deeply relatable. Laura Jean talks about her fear of vulnerability and of losing people, triggered by her mother’s death, with Peter, who has an absent father. Throughout the film, she learns about opening up, both in relationships and as a way to cope with grief.

To All the Boys did a beautiful job of exploring and addressing these fears in a tender and genuine way that truly lent the film its charm. It did a marvelous job of tackling bigger issues in a way  that is heartwarming and charming. LJ’s wonderful relationships with other characters like Peter and her sisters extend the feel-good vibe. Bright colors remind us that LJ is, at heart, still a kid while making the film visually interesting. It really is a cute and heartwarming movie that should be embraced for what it is: a feel-good rom com not intended to be a master class in cinematic masterpiece, but a truly enjoyable and relatable film.

Via Awesomeness films/Netflix