Recently on Netflix’s slate of original films, I saw To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Lead character Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) pens letters her past loves. The letters were simply meant to be for her, until all the letters are somehow sent to them. Her life is then thrown into disorder when all the boys she’s loved before confront her, one at a time. Based on the novel of the same name by Jenny Han with the screenplay by Sofia Alvarez and directed by Susan Johnson (Carrie Pilby), these five love letters are sent. As soon as that happens, they’re no longer personal. They’re out in the world now and there’s nothing she can do about it. Only time will tell how The Five will take it.
Admittedly, I’m a sucker for the YA genre. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is based on a 2014 young adult fiction novel by Jenny Han; the film stars Lana Condor (X-Men: Apocalypse) as a secondary school (high school) student thrust into a newly complicated love life. For me, the ending was kind of predictable that I can only forgive in Disney films… they lived happily ever after. I would have liked more intrigue here. Nonetheless, this film is no Perks of Being a Wallflower but it has its many good moments despite its shortcomings. Directed by Susan Johnson, this is a good follow-up feature for her, after Carrie Pilby, based on the Caren Lissner novel, a book and film I love deeply.
Set in the USA (but filmed in Vancouver), the story revolves around Lara Jean (Condor), living in the shadow of her high-achieving older sister Margot (Janel Parrish). Also, she lives with the annoyingly adorable younger sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) and their father Dr. Covey (John Corbett), a widow. They’re a close family despite missing their mother and are apprehensive of Margot leaving for a Scottish university. Moreover, Lara has feelings for Josh (Israel Broussard), Margot’s boyfriend which adds complications. She wrote a letter to him, as he is also one of The Five, his letter thought to be in her secret box with the other four letters to boys she’s loved in the past.
This film is serious when it needs to be with some excellent dialogue. It’s funny when it needs to be, and sometimes it’s even hilarious. The misunderstandings between the various different characters are human. What I found interesting is how a film like this managed to hold my attention for the full running time. Lana was sympathetic throughout, true to herself, and she didn’t drop her values or integrity, unlike characters like Cady (Lindsay Lohan) in Mean Girls, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) in Edge of Seventeen or even Sam (Emma Watson) in Perks of Being a Wallflower. And it’s can be watched with families without any feeling of awkwardness.
I’m interested to see how this film would have done if it had gone for a theatrical release like Edge of Seventeen rather than straight to Netflix. However, with good performances all round, this is something I’d watch again for sure (despite the ending being a little too clean cut).