This Netflix film is an adaptation of Jenny Han’s 2014 YA novel by the same name. I haven’t read the novel, so no comparisons would follow, but I liked this little film. It’s one of those feel-good YA movies you’d watch to pass time on a Friday evening.
The typical “high-school” elements we’ve come to read/watch in US/Canada productions are all there. If you’re reading this in India, you’d agree with the fact that we cannot really identify with “the high-school crap” that most of these young adults go through in the foreign countries; at least for me high-school wasn’t really a hell-hole. Dozens of movies and books later, “the high-school crap” is growing on me and I can now empathize with the movie’s Lara Jean, an introverted 16-year old who fantasizes about poetic love-stories but is too afraid to let herself experience the feeling. So she writes love-letters to all her crushes – five guys in total. Love letters that’ll eventually go inside a safe-box. What happens when these letters find their way out to their recipients is what the movie is about.
The setting is familiar and all the characters, cliched. What works in the film’s favor is how the director treated this simple and predictable material. The family dynamics in the Covey household make sure to tick off the family drama angle. The bonding between the Covey sisters is brought alive with much warmth. For the large part, though, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before plays around two characters – Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky. As long as the film sticks to these characters and their story – which is for the most part, it works like magic. Everywhere else, it dips. We don’t get enough insight into the lives of the Conveys from before the lady of the house passes away, and how losing her mother shaped Lara (if at all) as we know her.
I also didn’t quite understand if Lara Jean really “loved” these boys, or if she was just infatuated by them. From whatever’s shown in the film, it very well might be the case. I would have loved to know the back-stories with each of the guys in detail (I don’t know if all this is in the book and was omitted before adapting it). Also, I think the mean-girl Gen is a stereotype in an already stereotypical high-school setting. Her thread, although important, is off-putting and comes off as immature.
The acting is good, but inconsistent. In a few scenes, Condor shines and yet in others, you can almost see her “acting”. Noah Centineo makes an impression. Israel Broussard appears lost for most of his screen-time.
At a crisp 100 minutes, the film’s a breeze, no doubt, but I doubt if I’ll re-watch it. You may watch it for some teen drama. It’s streaming on Netflix.
PS: All images are screenshots from the film’s trailer on Netflix. Featured image courtesy IMDB.