To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a delightful teen rom-com that follows a girl who must deal with a messy romantic entanglement. Lara Jean Song Covey is a hopeless romantic. She wistfully dreams of experiencing romantic moments often found in classic literature, or something out of a movie. She harbors grand ambitions for her love life but she is hopeless in reality.
Lara Jean, like many 16-year-old girls, is helpless when it comes to navigating romance. So, she channels her energy and passion into writing letters (that she has no intention of sending) for the boys she has intense crushes on. To Lara Jean‘s dismay, the five love letters are mysteriously mailed out, and Lara Jean‘s sheltered existence is shattered. The recipients of these letters include the boy next door Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard), and the hot jock at school Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), whose girlfriend is Lara Jean‘s tormenter.
Lana Condor stars as Lara Jean and does a wonderful job showcasing many of Lara Jean‘s complicated emotions throughout this ordeal. Condor has a sweet and endearing personality that shines through as Lara Jean, which will surely be a breakout role for the young actress. There is nothing to dislike about Condor‘s performance or how Lara Jean is written – she is a relatable young woman. Lara Jean has devoured every word of the finest literary romances and has envisioned herself in the place of many literary heroines who find their Mr. Right. However, it is difficult to maneuver through love in real-life when you are self-conscious or shy. Lara Jean needed this embarrassing mishap to happen in order to find her voice, stand up for herself and embrace love —in whatever form it comes in.
Oftentimes in teen romances, we rarely see our protagonist focus and develop their relationships at home. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before does a great job of touching on family love. Lara Jean is part of loving home, with a devoted widowed father (Josh Corbett), and two sisters, Kitty and Margot (Anna Cathcart & Janel Parrish) who adore her. One of the letters has unintended consequences in her home life, which puts her in a position to reassess certain things in her life, which includes her family. The film understands that we should not solely concern ourselves with love from a romantic partner. Relationships of any kind need commitment and attention, and it is a sweet sentiment that grounds Lara Jean’s story.
At the heart of the film is a story about a teen heroine who struggles to cope with her feelings and finds it difficult to articulate them. This anxiety manifests in different ways and affects every aspect of her life. Like all great love stories, one mishap nudges our heroine onto the right path. Lara Jean is someone who thinks she must hold everything inside and that she is alone; she is unable to see that all she needs is within her reach. This is a theme that many can relate to and makes To All The Boy’s I’ve Loved Before stand out from the rest, yet stand alongside similar coming-of-age films like Lady Bird and The Edge of Seventeen.
The film also rises above other teen rom-coms thanks to a stellar script and production. Sofia Alveraz’s script is fun and quippy. Teen rom-coms often have unrealistic dialogue and poorly drawn characters, which is definitely not the case here. Everyone is exceptionally well written, even with some of the characters who have limited screen time. Director Susan Johnson and cinematographer Michael Fimognari have a ton of fun with the framing of the story. Johnson plays with conventions by blending Lara Jean’s imaginary world with the real world, leaving us with a sense that we are truly walking through a teen’s fantasy. Fimognari is inspired by Lara Jean’s bright and vibrant imagination, which is reflected in her clothing choices, her room and the world around her. Every moment of the film is produced within an inch of its life and it is for the best.
To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved is a delightful and refreshing take on the teen drama. Sure, the film doesn’t break any new ground, but it does improve upon what’s been done before. At the center is your typical bookish teen heroine that actually learns some valuable lessons and takes charge in her own story. The film will also have you grin ear-to-ear as Lara Jean musters up the strength to express herself and open up to her crush. To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved will have you falling in love with love.