Browsing through Netflix, I came across the trailer for "To All The Boys I've Loved Before," and I found myself rolling my eyes before it even began; the title itself screamed the movie was simply another "The Kissing Booth" or "High School Musicawhere cliche characters would be fantasized into having achieved unrealistic relationship goals and create a "happy-ever-after" where the female lead's life would be changed forever, almost always for the better, due to a boy. I suppose what always bugged me about these movies are their teachings: that happiness can't be achieved without the help of finding your Troy Bolton; in fact, these movies make sure to emphasize the female lead's life being sad and dull before meeting their one true love. I quickly categorized "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" into this category, but after a few recommendations to this movie by some of my friends, I decided to give it a shot.
Oh, how wrong I was.
1. It uses a brilliant cast.
In case some people are not aware, "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" was originally a novel; I've found that with major book series becoming movie franchises, directors choose to take away from the depth of the book in order to appeal to the movie going audience that seeks action and drama over character development and coming of age stories. With this, I was worried that this movie would be the same, take away the small details that make up the bigger picture of the novel, one being character portrayal. I was so happy that Netflix chose to keep the diversity within their movie adaptment; choosing a cast that not only reflected the looks of the characters within the novel, but also showcased their personalities beautifully and eloquently.
2. It follows the book!
Going back to director's cutting out the details of novels within their film adaptions, this movie made sure to keep the plot of the novel the same without having to add additional plot twists or a surprise ending in order to keep the movie audience's attention going. Sticking to the plot of the novel worked well and was executed well, allowing the audience to still feel they've enjoyed an action packed ride without needing to change the story at all.
3. The characters were far from cliche, and high school was presented in a more realistic view.
A lot of movies set in high school portray it as being extremely enjoyable, or extremely bad. Without that middle ground, false perceptions of what American high school is truly like is hard to picture from movies alone. However, when I watched this movie, I didn't feel that false image of Lara Jean's narration a picture perfect view of the world nor a depiction of hell. Truly, it all sounded and felt genuine. She wasn't a damsel in distress, singing a musical number, or dying to get the boyfriend. She was simply being a teen, trying to find her way through and out of situations that life throws at us.
4. It broke all past high school movie stereotypes.
Not only was it not the girl going after the guy, but the feelings were reciprocated the entire time between Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky. Lara Jean developed her crush on Peter the same time Peter did with her, allowing the audience to see not only one, but two character developments. Peter was originally chained down by his other girlfriend, but with Lara Jean, he finds himself freed and more comfortable to be himself around her. In this way, we begin to see his love grow for her because of who she is, not who is strives to be. Although he hid under intentions to gain popularity with his ex, we saw his genuine love for Lara Jean. Similarly, Lara Jean originally did not have a crush on Peter, rather her best friend. Instead of taking that cliche path, we saw two strangers fall in love, not by force, but by their own character. It was nothing but elegant, clever and beautiful.
5. Non-white females are finally able to have a movie showcasing their people experiencing their fairy-tale moment.
Growing up, I was so used to seeing largely white casts, or any POC holding a role below a side-kick or wingman to the lead. This movie was truly a fresh breath of air. Not only was the lead Asian-American, but the movie did not water down her heritage, rather celebrate it by allowing Peter to try and experience Asian culture. The movie made sure to emphasize Lara Jean's Asian background because it was a part of her, and made sure the audience was aware that Peter knew of it. Thus, we see that Peter sees Lara Jean for who she is, and loves her for it. It was finally the character plot we needed in order to celebrate diversity and create a non-white female lead who still is able to be apart of her own fairytale.
In all, this movie was by far the mostI've seen this year, and has truly left a mark on the future of teenage rom-coms. Edging towards more adult content, this movie hides no aspect of high school, or the problems that erupt from it. We encounter and see the relationship of two individuals from two separate spheres grow together, bond together, and thrive together in order for them to become their best selves. We learn as audiences that culture, popularity, or other's opinions do not matter if it is real; that holding mutual respect is important in a relationship and we're bound to hit rough patches. I recommend that everyone gives this movie a shot as I did; it opened up new doors not only for the movie industry, but also for the opportunities of minorities everywhere.