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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: A Fresh Face on Rom-Coms

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Image used under fair use criticism laws.

Image used under fair use criticism laws.

Image used under fair use criticism laws.

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Netflix has taken some big hits for their targeted teenage genres in the past few months: Insatiable sparked controversy about body shaming, the second season of 13 Reasons Why received unwanted attention from mental-health experts for its depiction of suicide, and The Kissing Booth having been called out for sending the wrong message about female empowerment. Luckily for the company, their newest original film is sure to turn the tables; their new release has already taken the world by storm with its positive messaging and new take on romantic comedies.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before follows the quiet Lara Jean Song Covey, a Junior in high school who deems herself “invisible”. Lara Jean has a habit of writing love letters to all the boys that she has ever had serious feelings for, but never sends them out. She discovers that all five of her letters, addressed to five different boys, have been sent out‒including one to her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh Sanderson, who is also Lara Jean’s best friend and neighbor. Lara Jean tries to hide her romantic feelings for Josh by entering a fake relationship with Peter Kavinsky, another love letter recipient who hopes that their fake relationship will help him win back his ex-girlfriend, Gen. But as her and Peter’s relationship begins to move in unexpected directions, Lara Jean finds that she is not so “invisible” anymore.

The movie first aired on Netflix on August 17, 2018, being based off of Jenny Han’s novel with the same name, which spent 40 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list for Young Adult fiction. The movie has received similar acclaim, reaching above 90% on Rotten Tomatoes in the short time it’s been out.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is simply fun. Its lighthearted comedy and almost cringe-worthy plot, combined with the film’s strong direction, makes watching it an undeniably enjoyable experience. The movie certainly is cheesy in the typical rom-com fashion, but there are still many laugh out loud moments and a fantastic lack of negativity to make it entertaining and easy to watch. The main character, Lara Jean, comes across as a relatable, slightly awkward, and family-loving girl, as well as being a representative for her multiracial heritage. All the boys that she sends letters to, including Peter and Josh, are distinctive in their personalities and likable in their own ways, all contributing to this movie’s list of strong actors. The movie seems to be targeted towards female audiences, but could serve as amusing or humorous to all watchers. The film offers a fresh take on teen romance movies with its unique plot incorporated in its coming-of-age story.

Another great feature that’s particularly interesting was some of its real-world aspects, including its call to attention of single-parent households and how they affect children and teenagers. Both characters Lara Jean and Peter come from one-parent families, and share with the audience how it feels to lose a parent to divorce or death. Their feelings of loss and guilt allow a real-life platform for watchers to relate to their struggle. The movie also places an emphasis on traditional family values, with siblings having close relationships and relying on each other for support. While this sort of relationship is not reflective of real life in the typical sense, the movie is able to throw optimism on the concept of relying on someone else.

That being said, as with many teen romance movies, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is not realistic ‒ not in plot, characters, or setting. The movie uses many basic stereotypes in the main characters along with portraying high school in a cliche way: with far more drama and little to no actual academics. This is typical and not unexpected with romantic comedies aimed at young adults and students, but it still remains uncomfortable watching the sacrifices Netflix makes in order to stay relevant and entertaining.

Despite this, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before lives up to its bestselling book companion: it was fun, dramatic, quirky, and fairly entertaining, along with having some real-world aspects. Netflix has found a formula to success with movies like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, being aimed at a teenage, female audience while still being an entertaining watch for all.

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