By COLLEEN GAPUZAN
Dear Rom-Coms, thank you for finally stepping up…
On Aug. 17th, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before debuted on Netflix. Based on the best-selling trilogy by Jenny Han, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before became an instant phenomenon. This rom-com revolves around sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Covey, a hopeless romantic, who writes five love letters to her past crushes in an attempt to cope with her feelings. One of the letter recipients, Peter Kavinsky, who also serves as Lara Jean’s main love interest, comes up with a plan to convince everyone that they are in a relationship to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. However, this ultimately creates rifts between another one of Lara Jean’s love letter recipients and her sister.
In the movie, Lara Jean has trouble expressing her feelings, not only with her love interests, but also with the people around her. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before captured the hearts of teenagers and young audiences that are dealing with similar issues.
Lana Condor, who portrays Lara Jean Covey, did an exceptional job in creating a character that was so painfully relatable, while being simultaneously comedic throughout the entire film. For example, Lara Jean enjoys reading and fantasizing about romance but when it comes to reality, she struggles. Condor modeled an accurate representation of teens that are afraid to express their true feelings for those they love. Consequently, the film was able to impact a great number of viewers.
In the film, Josh Sanderson, one of Lara Jean’s love letter recipients, tells her, “You can’t just sit up in your room writing love letters. You gotta tell people how you feel when you feel it.” The film’s entire message revolves around the idea that instead of keeping your feelings to yourself, you should take a chance and express them. This was one of the major life lessons in the movie that spoke out on behalf of teens, especially high schoolers.
Another value greatly emphasized in the film was the importance of family. Lara Jean has two sisters: Margot, her older sister, and Kitty, her younger sister. When Margot leaves for college, Lara Jean finds it hard to tell her sister about the letters, creating a barrier between them. This conflict in the movie heavily resonates with teens struggling to open up to their loved ones, and promotes the significance of family relationships through the lessons she learns.
Not to mention, the theme of high school identity is very prominent throughout the film. Lara Jean keeps to herself at school; however, when she begins to “fake date” Peter Kavinsky, her whole high school identity suddenly flips around and people begin to notice her. Just like Lara Jean, teens can relate with the idea of sometimes feeling invisible at school and out of place.
One of the biggest factors that contributed to the film’s success was how it stayed true to the books. Jenny Han, the author, thought it was very crucial that Lara Jean was played by an Asian-American actress. However, this appeared to be very difficult since almost every single production company wanted to whitewash the lead character. Eventually, Han decided to work with Awesomeness Films and Overbrook Entertainment, the only production company that agreed to produce with an Asian-American lead. In the end, Hollywood, known for being a heavily white washed industry, proved to still be very exclusive in giving lead roles to different races. Nevertheless, the movie was still able to obtain its strong, Asian-American lead.
Overall, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before proved to be one of Netflix’s best films so far this year. From high school relationships to its exceptional promotion of significant values, this rom-com cinematic excellence hits home for young audiences worldwide.
To all the producers and cast members, thank you for putting back relatable characters and emotion in teenage rom-com.
P.S. Please make a sequel. We need it.