Netflix has been on a roll with its rom-coms lately. The genre has fallen out of the graces of mainstream Hollywood films as of late, but Netflix seems adamant on reviving the genre. We’ve got the silent hit WHEN WE FIRST MET, starring Adam Devine and Alexandria Daddario; the fan-favorite THE KISSING BOOTH starring Joey King and Jacob Elordi; and the widely acclaimed SET IT UP, starring Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell. Welcome TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, the visually-stunning teen rom-com that will surely make you believe in love (and rom-coms) all over again.

Lara Jean and Peter in the cafeteria after they've signed their contract in TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE
Lana Condor and Noah Centineo make a great Lara Jean and Peter. | Image: Netflix

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE tells the story of 16-year old Lara Jean Covey (played by Lana Condor). Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Jenny Han, Lara is in love with love. She devours mass-market romances and dreams of the day her when prince confesses his love for her. Her only problem is that she’s never actually been in a relationship. Instead, when Lara Jean has an unavoidable crush on someone, she writes them a letter. There are five in total, all of which sit in a box in her closet.

Then one day, her letters get out. One to her first crush Josh Sanderson (who is also the Covey’s neighbor and her older sister Margot’s boyfriend). Another to Peter Kavinsky, her first kiss from the 7th grade. A third to Lucas James from freshman year homecoming. A fourth to Kenny from summer camp. And the last letter to John Ambrose McClaren from Model UN. In order to avoid an awkward encounter with Josh, Lara Jean kisses Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), setting off a series of events that shake up her world.

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Getting the Representation it Deserves

Netflix’s TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE’s main character is half-Korean, half-Caucasian. But getting a lead of Asian-descent was actually no easy feat. In an interview with NBC America‘s Think, Jenny Han discussed how her novel was almost white-washed:

“There was interest in the movie early on. But when I would have conversations with producers, they assumed the lead would be white. . . . And then I would say, ‘Oh, they’re great but they’re not Asian. Lara Jean is Asian’. . . . And I would have to explain to them, ‘It’s not me having to explain to you why she has to be that, it’s just that she is that. [W]hat you’re asking me to do is justify her existence.'”

Peter asking Kitty where he can buy Korean yogurt in TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE.
Peter really loves Kitty’s Korean yogurt. | Image: Netflix

Needless to say, Han succeeded in finding someone willing to stay true to her original work. As an Asian-American myself, this is something I find incredibly refreshing. Not every movie, book, or show featuring people of color has to center around their identity. Lara Jean and her sisters are Asian-American, but the movie nor its characters dwell on this fact.

There are no derogatory comments about her race or Lara Jean’s poor driving skills. And yet, hints of Asian culture are scattered throughout the film: a rice cooker in the kitchen, no shoes on in the house, and Korean yogurt being shared between Lara Jean’s younger sister Kitty and Peter. By not forcing a subplot about identity, TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE allows its main cast of characters to be stubborn, naive teenagers. The result is an incredibly moving story about love, family, and good ol’ teenage drama.

The Fake Relationship

The fake relationship is a rom-com trope that’s been around for quite some time. We’ve seen it in popular movies like PRETTY WOMAN and THE PROPOSAL. Adapting any trope runs the risk of giving audiences something they’ve previously seen. But TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE manages to subvert expectations in very clever ways.

Peter shows off his Lara Jean screensaver in TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE.
“Girl, c’mon you know I already got it.” ICONIC. | Image: Netflix

For one, Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship isn’t built upon a mutual dislike of one another. There is a power difference between the two (Peter is a jock and Lara Jean is a loner), but it isn’t used to undermine their relationship. Instead, Peter uses his social standing to ease Lara Jean out of her comfort zone on her own terms and allow her to experience normal, teenage activities.

But ultimately, it’s the way their relationship uses their mutual attraction that truly separates it away from typical fake relationship films. Though they each have their reasons for agreeing to this arrangement, it wouldn’t work if they didn’t like each other from the start. We watch their feelings blossom into something real. As Lara Jean puts it,

“Being with Peter was so easy that sometimes, I would let myself pretend it wasn’t fake.”

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The People We Keep Close

Lara Jean’s reliance on her family is also what makes her a feel like a well-rounded character. Though much of the film’s drama starts with her crush on her sister’s boyfriend, Lara Jean makes it clear that there are lines she would never cross. Her sisters are her best friends. When Margot goes off for college, Lara Jean has trouble skyping her because she knows she wouldn’t be able to keep up her own lie.

The sisters aren’t carbon copies of each other either. Margot is the type to get rid of things (and people) and not second-guess herself; Lara Jean is comfortable in her quiet, single life; and Kitty is headstrong and isn’t afraid of picking on her own family. It’s these different personalities that make their relationship relatable to anyone who has siblings.

Lara Jean and Lucas James talk after he received her letter in TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE
One of the best things to come from Lara Jean’s letters. | Image: Netflix

Peter Kavinsky aside, one of the best things to happen from Lara Jean’s letter mishap is her friendship with Lucas James. But more than just a happy result, Lucas James proves that not everything in life has to be so bad. When he receives Lara Jean’s letter, he realizes he was never meant to. And while anyone would be made uncomfortable by the contents, he expresses concern over Lara Jean’s privacy.

He checks in on her and becomes one of the only people she can confide in about her relationship with Peter. Amidst the teen drama happening in the foreground of this movie, their supportive friendship is one you can’t help but rely on to be Lara Jean’s voice of reason. But most importantly, everyone deserves a friend who will do Korean face masks during an overnight field trip.

We Love TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE is just an all-around wonderful film. From the well-adapted script, heartwarming themes, to the swoon-worthy cast, this is a film that you’ll be able to watch over and over again. I’ve already seen it three times myself and it’s been less than a week since the movie dropped on Netflix.

If CRAZY RICH ASIANS, SET IT UP, and TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE proves anything, it’s that rom-coms are making a comeback. CRAZY RICH ASIANS currently holds the title for the highest grossing rom-com debut since 2015’s TRAINWRECK starring Amy Schumer. Putting people of color in leading roles is proving to be very popular (and profitable) in 2018, so we can only hope that we so more of it in the coming years.

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE is now streaming on Netflix.

Featured image via Netflix.

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