TL;DR – It looks at the complicated emotions of love and how we respond to it.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
The teen romance is a genre that use to be very popular but you don’t see it as much anymore in recent times. Part of the reason is that quite often these were the mid-tier films falling between Indy and Blockbusters that got squeezed out of oblivion in the rush for everyone to make their tent pole crossover franchises. Also the genre has gone through some shifts in the wake of works like John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars. However, as people realise that the big multi-film franchise can’t happen all the time, we have started to see the resurgence of these mid-tier budget films and all of this brings us to today’s film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before a Young Adult/Coming of Age film about love and loss and the need to hide your letters better from well-meaning but potentially destructive siblings.
So to set the scene, we open on Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) explaining her life, she lives with her two sisters Margot (Janel Parrish) the elder and Kitty (Anna Cathcart) the younger. They live with their father Dan (John Corbett) who tries, but he really can’t cook Korean food. Lara has a tradition that when she has a deep emotional bond with a boy she writes a letter to them explaining it, but of course never actually sends them. One of the reasons for that is one of the letters is addressed to Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard) the boy next door, long-time friend of Lara, but currently dating her sister Margot. Well Margot is about to go to college in Scotland, and decides to go sans boyfriend, totes awks. With her sister away and no real prospect, Kitty finds the letters and decides to let them out in the world and chaos ensues.
Now as we start, clearly I am not the target audience for this film, but there was quite a lot that I really liked, though because of the structure of the film there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead. The first is, even though there is a lot drama in and around the four boys who get the letters, at the heart of the film is a story of family and supporting each other. This makes the film have a deeper resonance than you often see. It also focuses on the conflicting emotions that is teenage love, and the emotional bonds that are difficult to shift even when they make no sense. As well as this, it is unfortunate that most of the time Asian-American actors only get cast in supporting roles and it was great that the film supported that part when they adapted the book.
While the main plot point of Lara and Peter (Noah Centineo) does have a feel of films that have come in the genre before. Indeed, it feels almost like a reverse 10 Things I Hate About You, which itself was based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and which I still deeply love, the film that is. Where it differentiates itself, and for the best, is that it actually focuses on the real experiences of the protagonist rather than the men in the story. It is here where the film shines a real and important light on many issues, like for the fact that when it comes to scandal the women get it worse. Which is all articulated when two men eventually posture next to each other and make fools of the both of themselves and how the film actually resolves by women having frank open conversations with each other. The film is also really well shot, with some beautiful homages to the romantic genre up to and including running through fields in red dresses to your lover on the other side.
In the end, do we recommend To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? Yes we do. It is a caring look at growing up and the many issues that come along with those emotional bonds. It might not be revolutionary, but it is well made, well-acted, and important look how the world treats people differently.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Directed by – Susan Johnson
Written by – Sofia Alvarez
Based on – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Music by – Joe Wong
Cinematography by – Michael Fimognari
Edited by – Phillip J. Bartell & Joe Klotz
Starring – Lana Condor, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Noah Centineo, Israel Broussard, Trezzo Mahoro, King Bach, Joey Pacheco, John Corbett, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Kelcey Mawema & Jordan Burtchett