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A Love Letter to “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”

To+All+the+Boys+I%27ve+Loved+Before+premiered+August+17th+on+Netflix.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before premiered August 17th on Netflix.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before premiered August 17th on Netflix.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before premiered August 17th on Netflix.

Zoey Young

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For some time, there was a drought for rom-com lovers everywhere. While there haven’t been movies like “Love Actually,” “Footloose,” and “The Princess Diaries,” in quite a long time, worry no more, because Netflix has revived the genre with releases like “Set it Up,” “The Kissing Booth,” and now “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.”

Originally a book trilogy written by Jenny Han, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”, now a movie available to stream on Netflix, has surpassed expectations and become a staple watch for any romantic comedy lover.

The movie is about a girl who writes love letters to the five boys she’s ever truly loved. This is main character Lara-Jean’s secret, until the letters all get mailed, causing Lara-Jean, played by X-Men actress Lana Condor, to find her “whole high-school existence turned upside down,” as Netflix describes.

The transition of the plot and the characters from book to screen was done beautifully by director Susan Johnson. While there were some differences, it didn’t take away from the movie’s overall quality. For example, some lighthearted, playful scenes in the book did not make an appearance on screen, such as the antiquing excursion between main characters Lara-Jean and Peter Kavinsky.

In spite of that, deeper conversations between Lara-Jean and other roles were introduced; one newer scene was a meaningful exchange between Lara-Jean and her father, played by John Corbett, over the death of her mother: “There’s so much about her I should have told you guys, but I haven’t because talking about her makes me sad…Seeing you come alive like that, you remind me of her.”

Other stand-out characters are the love interests themselves, Peter Kavinsky and Josh Sanderson, played by Noah Centineo and Israel Broussard. They act their parts perfectly; Centineo plays the confident yet sensitive jock well, adding layers of emotion when needed, like the moment where he confides in Lara-Jean about his father leaving.

Broussard’s dorky, adorable personality shines through as Josh Sanderson as well. For example, in a flashback to a moment between him and Lara Jean, he is seen mulling seriously over a silly question, before finally giving a humorous answer.

“I mean, pee. Definitely pee. I can’t give up Mountain Dew.”

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is more than just some teen movie though; it is a monumental achievement for Asian-Americans. Released in the same week as another break out movie, “Crazy Rich Asians”, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” features three Asian-American main characters. The movie makes sure to add small references to the character’s Asian heritage through Asian cooking, facemasks, etc.

The movie also makes sure to take subtle jabs at racism, masked as light humor. For example, main character Lara-Jean points out the problematic portrayal of Long Duk Dong in the movie “Sixteen Candles,” as she and Peter Kavinsky are watching the movie.

“I’m sorry isn’t this character Long Dong Duck…like kinda racist?” asks Kavinsky, “Not ‘kind of,’ extremely racist,” replies Condor’s character.

This scene does call out the racism in the movie, but soon the meaningful moment is over when Peter Kavinsky asks Lara-Jean why she likes it: to which character Kitty Covey, played by Anna Cathcart, interrupts with a sarcastic retort mentioning Jake Ryan.

Han, and the director Susan Johnson both believe this was a necessary component to the movie.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Han says, “I always think about race as a part of one’s identity, not the whole of one’s identity,” Han said. “You don’t want it to be the defining characteristic of a character. There has to be more.”

In the end, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a cute spin on the fake relationship trope often used. It’s a feel-good movie with some cheesy scenes, but then again it IS a rom-com. The cinematography and dialogue are a delight to watch, and the diverse cast is an added bonus. After watching To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, maybe you’ll want to write a love letter of your own.

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A Love Letter to “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”