Movie Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

I’m not usually a fan of the modern chick flick/romcom.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them, they just don’t really do anything for me.  I have an equal apathy towards movies about sports or music.  To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, though?  Sign me up for a rewatch.

The movie follows Lara Jean, a high school student who sort of has a crush on her sister’s boyfriend, and over time has had crushes on four other lads.  To each of these lads she has written a love letter and keeps said letters in a pretty box in her wardrobe where no one will ever see them.

The story begins with Lara Jean’s older sister (the one with the boyfriend) going off to university in Scotland and leaving said boyfriend (Josh) back in the US with a broken heart.  Lara Jean is naturally filled with conflict and angst, until her helpful younger sister finds those letters and mails each and every one of them off to their intended recipients.  Two of them (Josh and a boy called Peter) go to Lara Jean’s school.  Peter has, very fortuitously, just broken up with his girlfriend Gwen, Lara Jean’s nemesis.

After some brief and enteraining hijinks, Lara Jean and Peter enter into a contract; they will fake date.  Peter will do it to fill his ex’s heart with jealousy and make her come back to him; Lara will do it to convince Josh and everyone else that she is not in love with him, because the awkwardness of being in love with your sister’s very recent ex is pretty extreme.

You can see where this is going, of course.  Slowly, adorably, and with many complications, Lara Jean and Peter realise that their fake relationship is becoming the real thing.  It becomes a big old will they/won’t they thing.  It’s really sweet.

I don’t know what it is about this movie that makes me so happy.  It could be that we have not one but three Asian American women, one of whom is the lead, and none of whom are token or stereotypical.  Maybe it’s that the people who spread rumours about Lara Jean are shot down by Peter, who could have bolstered his reputation as a stud by letting them spread.  Maybe it’s the adorable dynamic in Lara Jean’s family, the bonding over absent family members between Lara Jean and Peter, or even just the really sweet, cathartic ending that didn’t feel cliched even though you could see it coming a mile off.  The characters are well-rounded and well-developed.  Lara Jean’s little sister is hilarious and adorable.  Lara Jean’s relationship with her very feminist and slightly wacky best friend is super fun to watch.  I was never bored.

I really enjoyed the way the story was told, too.  Sometimes we get flashbacks to little Lara Jean and her historic crushes (really cute!).  Sometimes we see her talking to imaginary versions of Peter and Josh.  Sometimes she narrates the story, and at other times is totally oblivious to things happening around her.  Keeping it switched up like that helps keep you engaged, but also keep it firmly in the cutesy chick-flick arena.  It also helps build your sympathy and affinity for Lara Jean as the protagonist.  She’s already likeable, but this puts you in her head.

If you want your teenager to have a healthy view of how relationships should be and understand the importance of communication, this is a great movie for them to see.  If you want to watch something cute and satisfying and just plain nice, this is a great movie for you to see.

Have you seen it?  What did you think?  What other Netflix originals have you tried of late?  Let me know in the comments.

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