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

To all the rom-coms I’ve hated before: it’s time to meet the film at the frontier of the romantic comedy renaissance. 

Courtesy of Slash Film

When was the last time someone sent you a love letter?  Scrap that – has anybody ever, in this century, hand-written a love letter? Texts at 2 am abruptly lighting up your phone in that dreaded green bubble, asking “hey, what’s up?” or “wyd?” is a far cry from the most pure and grand expressions of love once found in a letter. Singed, sealed and with the intention to never be delivered, day-dreamer and protagonist of Netflix’s latest film, Lara Jean (Lana Condor), expresses her interest to her various romantic interests.

Gushing her deepest, most intense feelings stemming from her pre-teen years, the letters are stashed away in a delicate heart-shaped box. Lara Jean knows that the release of these letters would lead to devastating (and embarrassing) consequences, primarily because one of her past crushes and former best friend, Josh, is now dating her older sister, Margot (Janel Parrish). For the shy high-schooler who spends her Saturday nights in with her younger sister Kitty (Anna Cathart), Lara Jean’s once invisible existence is flipped and her worst nightmares realised when all five letters are sent to their stunned recipients. One of the once-loved boys, Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo – who has now become an overnight shining beacon of hope and romance-  assists Lara Jean in hatching a fool-proof plan. The pair decide to attempt to convince their respective crushes that the pair are head over heels in love with each other, in order to spark jealously. But this is a rom-com, so the witty banter, undeniable chemistry and connection between the faux couple ignite deeper feelings that go beyond ‘just friends’.

Now this is a Netflix original movie I can wholeheartedly support. Directed by Susan Johnson and adapted from the novel by the same name, TATBILB is a contender for one of the most heart-felt films since …. I honestly can’t recall since when. This Netflix sleeper hit takes inspiration from the most notable rom coms to create a unique and touching story of friendship and unrequited love.

Courtesy of Paste Magazine

Like the lost art of writing a love letter, the art of creating an enjoyable rom-com is also dying. TATBILB works miracles in reviving both in 2018. I’m both impressed and taken aback that Netflix pulled off a witty, sweet and memorable film considering their laughable track record over the past year (never forget Christmas Prince). When thinking back to the great romantic comedies that defined the 80s and 90s, there are three things I associate with a successful and heart-warming film: a stand-out leading duo, an soundtrack compiling both indie and international tracks, and a final scene that will have its dialogue played out in fantasies. TATBILB succeeds in executing all three, nailing the formula to birth a modern day John Hughes movie. It even features a Tears for Fears anthem in a tender scene between Lara Jean and her loving single father, played by ultimate dad-actor John Corbett.

Romance aside, TATBILB isn’t just about confronting your crush. It reminds audiences about the unity of family and the enduring nature of real friendship. Of course, the film doesn’t go without a sufficient amount of that irresistible teen drama and emotionally fuelled fights that mute down the sappier notes for a balanced and engaging story. Things might go as expected for the more cynical viewers willing to give the genre ago, however it’s a story we can believe and fall back in love with.

Would this movie be half as great without its stellar cast of newcomers? Lana Condor absolutely shines with an authentic and dazzling performance as a teenage girl who is coming to terms with her own self-confidence. Condor is truly captivating on screen, tuning into the innate sense of teenage innocence and self-doubt, whilst adapting to more somber tones when talking about immense grief. Every line and action has a purpose, and she delivers her performance with every intent of portraying a protagonist that is relatable and endearing. Noah Centineo enters as Condor’s male equivalent in terms of talent. His role as the now-iconic Kavinsky exudes charisma, with every word of dialogue dripping with charm. Centineo embodies a character most of us can only day dream and continue to makes memes about. Echoing that same timeless magnetism as seen in Heath Ledger’s Patrick Verona, Centineo performance has created a new standard for leading men.  

With an eclectic array of musical genres for a well compiled soundtrack featuring Blood Orange, Confidence Man, The Velveteins and many more, there’s finally a teen romance combining the sweetness of a Hughes film with the wit and realness of the 90s. Netflix has matured, along with its characters, and its obvious through this monumental movie that has reignited a misconstrued genre.

Peter Kavinsky forever in my heart.

Have you watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.