To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (More like to all the boys I’ve had mild crushes on) follows Brenda Song lookalike Lara Jean Covey who writes secret letters to all the douchebags (except for the black dude, he’s cool) she’s “loved” before. She’s really into this romance crap like a middle-aged housewife who’s read too many romance novels (she actually has). And then those letters get LEAKED.
Lara Jean, who’s a shy girl, lives in a big house with her sisters and her unrealistically cool dad. Much of her motivations and the way she handles things has lots to do with her mother’s death but it benefits the story that director Susan Johnson is trying to tell. However, Lara Jean is no goodie two shoes. Right from the beginning, you know that she’s into her older sister’s boyfriend Josh. It’s safe to say that he’s the only boy she genuinely cares for. Most of the characters are entertaining for the most part but they’re definitely just your stereotypical teen rom-com archetypes. There’s a mean girl, Gen, who hates Lara Jean cause she kissed Peter, her boyfriend and one of Lara Jean’s crushes in the 8th grade. There’s also Lara Jean’s alternative friend, who’s so alternative, she’ll give LA Hipsters a run for their money.
This film is mostly about Lara Jean forming a fake relationship with Peter, your typical jock character. He wants to make his ex, Gen, jealous and she wants to make Josh jealous… or confused… I don’t know, it’s all kinda stupid. What exactly is Lara accomplishing by doing this besides being a crappy friend to Josh?
Don’t expect many twists and turns here. Everything plays out the way you expect it to, for the most part at least. Some aspects of the film are contrived beyond belief, especially in regards to how the letters are leaked. That said, a dogshit premise can still make for a compelling narrative. Lara Jean and Peter’s interactions are quite genuine and it really builds something that you can root for. And despite its formulaic approach, I would have to concede that I was left impressed by certain bold choices the film makes, especially towards the end. It’s frankly something not usually seen in the pile of faeces that is the teen rom-com subgenre.
Also a standout is director Susan Johnson’s directorial efforts, not just in terms of how it looks — Johnson isn’t shy when it comes to wide shots — but also what she brings out of her actors. It honestly feels like these characters are actually having genuine human moments instead of just expository lines to push the story forward. The are many conversations between characters are well edited, keeping a steady pace throughout with some solid framing. I know what you’re thinking “It’s a dumb teen rom-com, who cares about the framing?”. Well, you’re right… the target demographic wouldn’t give a shit but I’ll admit, with these efforts, the film stands out from the pack.
What about the jokes? They’re charming and effective but nothing that’ll blow your mind away. The film does occasionally wink at the audience which is fun, not to mention there’s some smart and effective visual comedy that isn’t interested in pandering to 13-year-olds.
Overall, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is okay. ALMOST… quite good. It does follow plenty of the narrative guidelines in the teen rom-com brand and delivers but what really sets it apart is its willingness to stand out in how they’re attempting to tell the story.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
It does follow plenty of the narrative guidelines in the teen rom-com brand and delivers but what really sets it apart is its willingness to stand out in how they're attempting to tell the story.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before