Crazy Rich Asians isn’t the only rom-com to release last week prominently featuring Asians in the cast. Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before came out the same weekend, and is the perfect movie to curl up in bed with your laptop and snacks. It’s Netflix’s second original romantic comedy release this summer after Set it Up (which was also great, by the way). What is To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before? It’s a coming of age film, a romantic comedy, a story about a family, about sisters; it’s for teens; it’s for adults; it’s a movie with a really long name.
To All the Boys is based on a book of the same name by Jenny Han (I’m about fifty pages in, no spoilers). It’s about a Korean American girl, Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), who keeps love letters she’s written to all the boys she’s had crushes on. The problem: the letters were never supposed to be sent. When the letters somehow get mailed to the crushes, Lara has to figure out how to proceed now that she can’t just hide in the background anymore. It doesn’t help that one of the boys is her sister Margot’s (Janel Parish – Pretty Little Liars) ex-boyfriend, Josh (Israel Broussard). To avoid an awkward conversation with Josh, Lara Jean fakes a relationship with other letter recipient Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). So ensues the drama (and the adorableness!).
The relationships in this movie are well executed. You feel the bond between Lara Jean and her sisters (her little sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) is a riot), especially since their mother’s death some years ago. With Margot going away to college in Scotland, and the love letter to her ex-boyfriend, that bond is tested, but is also proved stronger than ever. Their father is also a sweetheart as he figures out how to care for teenage girls. The chemistry between Condor and Centineo feels real, and their relationship develops as they start to reveal the intimate parts of their lives to each other. What should be cheesy, winds up just being incredibly sweet. Most of the people in the movie have good intentions, even if they don’t always say or do the right thing, and they come through in the end. Because of this, the film leaves you with a sense of hope and warmth.
Though the Covey sisters are only half Korean (their dad is white), Korean culture is artfully woven through the movie. They drink Korean yogurts (which Kavinsky at one point goes all the way across town to buy for Lara, awwww), and their dad attempts to make Korean food like their mother used to. On a visit to the set, author Han noticed they had Condor wearing sneakers in bed in the opening scene. (In case you didn’t know, most Asians don’t wear shoes around the house. Shoes are meant to be left by the door.) In an interview with The Mary Sue, Han said, “So I whispered to the producers, like, “Um…” I didn’t want to be annoying but I had to say something. I was like, “Can she not be wearing shoes in bed?”
What’s so lovely about this movie is that the characters say how they feel, and are really thoughtful and caring towards each other. While most other movies, often rom-coms, always seem to dance around what they want to say, To All the Boys just goes for it. Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s still some dancing. There wouldn’t be a plot if there wasn’t. But I like how Lara Jean says when she’s scared, or talks candidly about her mother’s passing, or calls Peter out on his bullshit. It’s refreshing to hear truth come out of our characters’ mouths.
I could really go on forever about this film. Even just about Lara Jeans outfits alone, which are way more trendy than I could ever hope to be. But, all I can say is this. If you want to feel good, watch this Netflix gem. It may just be one of the greatest rom-coms of our generation for how genuine and sweet it is. It’s one of those films that make you want to watch it over and over again, if only to feel that warm fuzzy feeling it gives you one more time. And since it’s a Netflix movie, you can. Lara Jean just wants to feel wanted, and I think everyone can relate to that. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before takes you in and gives you the warm hug you didn’t realize you needed.