REVIEW: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before — Directed by Susan Johnson.

The quality of Netflix ‘Original Films’ can be inconsistent. More often than not people associate Netflix with great television shows and a wide variety of straight-to-streaming Adam Sandler films. Sure, sometimes Netflix acquires great dramas, but, for the most part, their original film content has a bad reputation.

Interestingly, this year Netflix has started to release some genuinely entertaining romantic-comedies. First, there was the office romance set-up film appropriately titled Set It Up, and, now, they’ve released a young adult romance film that is sure to be a hit with its target audience.

Based on the 2014 Jenny Han young adult romance novel of the same name, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before tells the story of Lara Jean Covey (played by Lana Condor), a young woman who has grown accustomed to enjoying romance stories from the outside. Her longtime friend and crush Josh (played by Israel Broussard) ended up dating her sister, and she is now always the third wheel.

She also keeps love letters for the five boys that she has ever had a crush on (hence the title), but they have no postage stamps on them, and she has no intention of mailing them to the boys. She just wants to enjoy her romance novels, fantasize, and go through her junior year of high school unnoticed.

But she doesn’t get a chance to do so, because when Lara Jean’s little sister, Katherine (played by Anna Cathcart), notices how Lara Jean doesn’t have anything better to do on Saturday night than to watch Golden Girls with her younger sister, then Katherine decides to mail the letters to all five boys.

Suddenly, her junior year of high school becomes much more eventful. One thing eventually leads to another, and now Lara Jean has to keep up with a fake relationship with Peter (played by Noah Centineo), a popular boy, to avoid having to acknowledge that she has had a crush on her sister’s boyfriend, which he, Josh, now knows about.

It would be a lie to say that this film is unpredictable. You’ve seen this type of film before. The fake relationship, the romance film twists, the coming-of-age and high school secret love story. This is certainly not a new idea, and to say that this film’s premise is generic, ordinary, or unoriginal would not be untrue. But, and here’s the kicker, I really enjoyed this film.

Perhaps it is because the film, although a fairly ordinary young romance film, feels more modern with a cast that reflects the way the world looks today. The film is also conscious of its central character’s culture without overdoing it or making a point of it. This could’ve easily been an unremarkable, whitewashed romance film, but it isn’t. Instead, this is a sweet and charming modern take on a well-worn romance film premise.

That said, it is predictable. The film absolutely is littered with coming-of-age romance film cliches and tropes. The film won’t really present new ideas, and, for that reason, I can’t recommend this film to everyone.

Although I was, for the most part, able to predict the way the film would go, I was never bored, which, I reckon, is thanks to the film’s two leads Noah Centineo and Lana Condor, the magnificent leading lady. Centineo plays the most popular kid in school, and he, unsurprisingly, plays lacrosse. But there is a sincerity to his character that I really enjoyed, and he delivered a solid performance, which acts as a positive impression for those, like me, unfamiliar with his work.

Centineo shares great chemistry with the magnetic Lana Condor, who gives a brilliant multi-faceted rom-com performance. Both of these performers touch upon character-specific trauma, which the film doesn’t focus on too much, and they do it with sensitivity and maturity. Condor and Centineo are great together, and they are aided by whip-smart dialogue complete with genre-relevant references that I greatly enjoyed.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a predictable, but charming young adult romance film, which I didn’t think I would enjoy as much as I did. While I don’t think it is as good as Set It Up — the other hugely popular 2018 Netflix rom-com — To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is ideal for young-hearted hopeless romantics.

7 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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