The past year has delivered some unbelievable additions to the coming of age genre including Lady Bird, Love, Simon and Eighth Grade so Netflix decided it was their turn to throw their hat in the ring. Will their attempt at dissecting high school prove to be as formidable as the others or will it be more in line with the quality that Netflix has become known for?
Synopsis: What if all the crushes you ever had, found out how you felt about them…all at once? Lara Jean Song Covey’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control when the love letters for every boy she’s ever loved – five in all – are mysteriously mailed out. (Netflix)
Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, and Israel Broussard
Writer: Sofia Alvarez
Director: Susan Johnson
Running Time: 99mins
After Set It Up literally set it up, this romantic comedy is able to hit it out of the park delivering one of the best Netflix Originals to date. Now bear in mind that the bar is set pretty low for Netflix films at this point, but To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a very special case because it doesn’t feel like a typical S2S (Straight-To-Stream) film.
The story follows the life of Lara Jean Covey (Condor), a junior in high school, who is dealing with her sister Margot (Janel Parrish) moving overseas for college and Margot’s breakup with Lara Jean’s childhood friend and crush Josh (Broussard). With school returning in the fall, Lara Jean’s life takes a turn for the worst when the love letters she has written for every boy she’s ever loved are mysterious mailed out. As Lara Jean’s crushes confront her over the letters, her high school nemesis’ ex-boyfriend Peter Kavinsky (Centineo) uses his letter to try to make his ex jealous by faking a relationship with Lara Jean that will change both their lives forever.
The film has a phenomenal cast with many of them providing great comedic or emotional support for the story, but the film’s success is nothing without Condor and Centineo. Their chemistry and charm feels very real, genuine and relatable while they go through some strong, message-filled character arcs. Speaking of relatable messages, the film is filled with a lot of coming of age themes that transcend the young adult audience some many expect this story to cater to. Both Lara Jean and Peter represent a bit of everyone and their own journeys of self-discovery in high school making for a very relatable story and group of leads that culminates into a satisfying and feel-good story. This is all accented by Susan Johnson’s great direction as she uses the camera and editing to bring an indie style to this story. The framing and timelapses are particularly enjoyable.
However, the story is slightly predictable due to its derivative nature. While the main storyline is very fleshed out, the film contains a number of open-ended subplots that never go anywhere leading to the question of why they were brought up in the first place. Five of Lara Jean’s letters are mailed out and yet only three are explored throughout the film, which is understandable given some crushes from a decade before may have moved and not received the letters, but it left things a little too ambiguous. The film also has a few continuity issues throughout which from a technical standpoint is disappointing, but it doesn’t deter from the emotional or dramatic tension.
Overall, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a sweet and heartwarming coming of age romantic comedy that tackles one of the biggest fears a teenager can face. While the story is a bit generic, the director’s style, relatable themes, feel-good story and great cast of characters, headlined by its two charismatic leads, make for a surprisingly real look at how brutal high school can really be. It is one of just a few above-average Netflix Originals.
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