Netflix has delivered another spectacular female-driven romantic comedy in the John Hughes-esque film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
The film is based on the novel by Jenny Han, who has been writing YA fiction for over a decade. Her novel focuses on our protagonist, Lara Jean (Lana Condor), and her romantic fantasies that she dreams, and lives out in her head – and in some very important letters. As the narrator, and thus the driving force in telling her own story, Lara Jean tells us that when she feels an “intense crush” she has to channel it into a love letter to said crush, a letter she will never send, which is stored in a teal hat box.
Lara Jean has written five letters: one to Josh (her older sister’s boyfriend and her former best friend), Lucas, Owen, Kenny, and finally Peter (Noah Centineo). Lara Jean is perfectly fine living her own little world, imagining a bigger world, but her little sister has other plans. Kitty, wanting Lara Jean to embrace the life of a regular sixteen year old, opens her very own version of Pandora’s box. We all know how that turned out the first time around.
Chaos ensues, secrets are revealed, feelings are hurt, and eventually realized. This is a fully formed romantic comedy that proves that the recent burst of life into this tired genre is not losing steam anytime soon. You have to look no further than fellow Netflix film, Set It Up for proof. These two films are important for several reasons, but one is that they are both headed by female directors, eliminating the exhausting issue of the male gaze. Susan Johnson directed this film, Sofia Alvarez adapted the screen play, based on the novel by Jenny Han. Not to mention the multi-faceted performance by Condor as Lara Jean.
In addition to the female-centric storytelling, the film embraces diversity and destroys stereotypes about Asian-americans, specifically about asian women. Some common (and horribly sexist) stereotypes include fetishizing demure attitudes of obedience. Lara Jean is quiet, but she is not a stereotype. In fact as USA today, stated her ethnicity is not a central part of her character. In other words her heritage does not dominate her “coming of age” storyline. In fact it is only mentioned in passing, most notably in the recurrence of a Korean yogurt smoothie. The family is multi-racial, a charming as always John Corbett plays the three girls father, Dr. Covey. That kind of natural understanding of her ethnic background simply being one part of her life, not her entire life, is very refreshing. Especially for a romantic comedy where, Lara Jean can just be a girl trying to avoid through day dreams, fake it or make it, and finally experience love for the first time.
It shouldn’t be more complicated than that. To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a sweet, enjoyable film that I highly recommend. The film was vintage-inspired in both color scheme (what a gorgeous palette!*) and sentimental diner scenes, but the sweetness comes with a burst of freshness that reminds you that this isn’t your mama’s romantic comedy.
* Had to gush about the fabulous cinematography and color scheme in this film. Working with soft millennial pinks, “generation z” yellow, and a lot of complimentary teals and blues, this film has a wonderfully feminine design that is both vintage and very modern. It adds pops of red or other color, unexpectedly, almost in a nod to the unexpectedly edgy aspects of Lara Jean (ahem those platform boots tho). This was a wonderful swirl of colors that helped establish the tone and mood of this film. Lara Jean was made fun of a few times throughout the film for her antiquated feelings about relationships, her wardrobe’s nod to the fifties goes along with the saturated colors, retro patterns, and prints. This created a grounded world for Lara Jean and those in her story to live in. Great work A++