The popular high school athlete is forced out of his comfort zone and ends up falling for the less popular girl, experiencing the challenges of high school and learning a few life lessons along the way.
This is the plot for most quintessential teen romance movies out there, including the new Netflix phenomenon “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Although most teen movies with this plot are considered cheesy guilty pleasures, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” offers a modern twist to the classic plot, embracing the innocence of young romance and thus making it a proud must-see.
The movie focuses around main character Lara Jean who has written a love letter for every crush she has ever had, including her oldest sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh. As her oldest sister leaves for college, Kitty, her younger sister, recognizes that Lara Jean is lonely and mails the love letters in an attempt to help Lara Jean’s social life.
After Lara Jean realizes that the letters have been sent out, she and Peter Kavinsky, a letter recipient and swoon worthy lacrosse player, plan to fake date each other in order to avoid Josh, and to curate jealousy from Peter’s ex-girlfriend. From there, the movie focuses on the struggles of high school and teen romance and ends with Lara Jean and Peter realizing they love each other.
When I first saw the movie, it was a Friday night, and I was alone in my room with my dog asleep besides me. As “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a movie about teen romance and adventure, I was originally dispirited that on a Friday night I was in my bed with my dog watching a movie.
However, this state of sadness was quickly overcome with pure delight when I realized that I was not watching a typical teen romance movie offered by Netflix, but that I was, in fact, watching my generation’s equivalent to the John Hughes movies glorified by my parents’ generation.
In the same light that John Hughes’ movies offer a more realistic perspective of teenagers’ feelings and struggles compared to the 70’s Brady Bunch depiction, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” brings a practical innocence to the current media’s depiction of people my age. Other shows and movies, like Riverdale and The Kissing Booth, portray teenagers as much more advanced and put together humans, ignoring the reality of our almost constantly confused existence.
Nonetheless, the movie does offer just the right amount of impractical teen fantasy. For example, the unchaperoned school ski trip helped add a sense of interest and wishful jealousy, as there is no way that could ever be allowed outside of the Netflix world.
In addition to the sense of reality in the movie, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” puts a spin on the usual nerdy girl pining for the popular boy. It portrays Lara Jean as someone confident and sound in her judgement and beliefs, disregarding the stereotype portrayed by other teen targeted media where the girl is willing to do anything for the boy because he is more popular than her.
Through this, Lara Jean demonstrates the fundamental belief that, in a relationship, both participants are equal and have a say. This is shown when the two are coming up with the contract for the fake relationship. Though the relationship was not real, both parties contributed to it, representing that in all relationships it is expected to have expectations and boundaries, no matter the partner.
Another reason why “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is so loved is because it represents mixed race couples as they should be: completely normal and unnoteworthy. As a result, the movie helps promote the normalcy of mixed race relationships as it shows how they are the same as monoracial ones.
Not to mention, Noah Centineo, the 22-year-old who plays Lara Jean’s popular boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky. Centineo has thrown social media for a loop, as everyone is tweeting about him, his character and, of course, his dimples. Centineo perfectly embodies the essence of Peter Kavinsky: a cute, flirty, athletic boy who is impossible to snag in real life.
However, while a cute romance is a major part of any memorable teen flick, the relationship between Lara Jean and her family also plays a major role in making “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” unique. While many movies focus on the hatred and constant fighting between families, this movie features the love between family members. It portrays how despite everything going wrong in your teenage life, you can always count on your family to be there.
Though it sticks to the traditional teen movie structure, “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a sweetly innocent movie true to teen life and the struggles and triumphs that come with it.