To All the Boys I've Loved Before: Don't write letters you wouldn't want read
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a new Netflix film directed by Susan Johnson, begins with a harp playing in the background as the camera pans over the natural backdrop of a wooden forest.
The narrator, Lara Jean Covey, played by Lana Condor, seems to be in a romantic trance, only to be abruptly interrupted with a smash cut into her reality — she is an Asian-American teenage middle child, stuck hopelessly within a love triangle.
Lara Jean’s mother died and left behind her father to fulfill the role of both parents to Lara Jean and her other sisters, Kitty and Margot, during their most crucial age — adolescence.
Lara Jean battles the familiar high school scene of nasty popular girls and unending cliques at the forefront. With an older sister away at college, Lara Jean experiences even more isolation and confusion once her love troubles commence.
For years, she’s written unsent letters to any boy she has ever had strong feelings about — hence the film’s title — and Josh Sanderson, her older sister’s boyfriend, is no different.
Her letter box is her best-kept secret and a clever way to vent and daydream about the “what-ifs” of all of her past crushes, flings and romances. Lara Jean’s writings allow her to hold on to her inner feelings without becoming completely vulnerable and exposed to unreciprocated emotions.
The conflict begins to unfold when Lara Jean’s unsent letters get into the hands of her old flames. Peter, one of those recipients, makes light of the situation by suggesting to maintain the appearance that they are a couple. This fake dating scenario presents bigger issues along the way. Lara Jean is faced with the challenge of lying to everyone to keep up this false reality — the illusion that she is happily in a relationship. People usually want to seem like they have their lives together, and for Lara Jean, straying from honesty is, therefore, a reasonable solution.
This film is great to add to a watch list, because Lara Jean can be understood from a personal perspective. The main character’s experiences are relatable to everyday matters of the heart.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before shows the complexity of love, adolescence and just being a human in general. Being in love, expressing that love and even accepting love is where one is at their most vulnerable.
Difficulty can come from the judgment and skewed opinions of an audience and of social media. Consequently, it’s no surprise that the characters in this film are challenged the most when they have to express how they actually feel about one another.
However, by the end of the film, it’s clear that the lesson has been learned; there are benefits to remaining truthful to oneself and to loved ones. Disguises unveil themselves eventually, so playing a false pretense is never wise.
As a satisfying end, the film closes with an aerial view zooming out on the main characters and the end of their story, but the beginning of a new love story.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before allows viewers to feel the emotions the characters are experiencing as the movie plays out. The film is filled with vibrant colors, vintage looks from Lara Jean and chill indie rock vibes throughout. Even for those not into mild romances, this is a heartfelt movie with great music choices that you can be enjoyed alone, or with the company of those one loves.