What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once? Lara Jean Song Covey’s (Lana Condor) love life goes from imaginary to out of control when the love letters for every boy she’s ever loved-five in all– are mysteriously mailed out.
Romance movies are usually not the type of movies I would throw on to be entertained. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some terrific romance films out there, but a large portion of them are also incredibly filled with clichés and are just way too cheesy to take seriously. Some of my personal favorites include Don Jon, When Harry Met Sally, and, believe it or not, The Notebook. It was a really cute and emotionally powerful film.
But like I said, most romantic films just come across as boring to me. If you were to hand me three movies on Blu-ray in three different genres – action, mystery, or romance – I am going to choose romance last. They just don’t impress me all that much.
With that being said however, I was somewhat curious as to what all the hype was about surrounding Susan Johnson’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a feature film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jenny Han. I vividly remember all of my friends being obsessed with this movie and I was incredibly surprised to see how well received the movie was amongst not only audiences, but critics as well.
After watching it for the first time this week, I can happily report that it is one of the better romantic movies I have seen in quite some time. It’s nothing out of this world and it isn’t one of the greatest movies of all time (not even close), but it is certainly one of the best teen rom-coms I have seen.
A large portion as to why this movie works as well as it does is due to the two lead performances by Lana Condor as Lara Jean Song Covey and Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky. Right from the opening few scenes, Condor exudes energy and warmth. Her character is one that is kind of a social outcast. She doesn’t really feel like she fits in anywhere, but she really loves to write. So much so that she wrote five love letters to the five boys that she has loved in her life.
One of these letters accidentally ends up in the hands of Peter Kavinsky – the high school sweetheart that everybody seemingly has a crush on. He is good looking, has a bubbly personality, and is extremely confident in everything he does. Whenever Lara and Peter first meet, they are instantly drawn to each other. From that moment onward, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before became an immensely cute and adorable movie that was always entertaining.
The chemistry on screen between Condor and Centineo is some of the best I may have ever seen in a teen romance movie. They genuinely felt as if they had known each other for years in real life prior to filming this movie. Every time they are on screen, the way they naturally talk to one another was so endearing and it made for some highly entertaining scenes.
But the movie’s other strength lies within its script by Sofia Alvarez. It is filled with such a sense of warmth and joy and has such a big heart that it is genuinely hard not to like. However, at first, the script and the dialogue was a bit off. There is one line of dialogue in particular in the opening few scenes that made me cringe.
That’s something else, too. This movie can, at times, perhaps be a bit too cheesy. I get it. It’s a romance movie. They are almost always cheesy by nature. But this film did have some moments that kind of make you chuckle and shake your head because it is just sappy. But luckily, it never becomes too sappy to the point where you just can’t watch it. It is a heavily sweet movie for the most part.
Another thing about the movie that is worth noting is that it is quite predictable. If you have seen any romance movie ever, you can probably tell how everything is going to play out relatively early on, and therefore, nothing in the movie ever really comes across as surprising because we have seen some of these plot beats done before time and time again.
But what makes this film so good and so enjoyable is its immensely charming and sweet script, its absolutely gorgeous cinematography by Michael Fimognari, and its two lead performances from Condor and Centineo. It’s not a perfect movie. But in terms of being a sweet, fun, breezy watch, it does the trick and then some.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is an immensely sweet and charming film with great performances and chemistry from Lana Condor and Noah Centineo.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: TV-14
Directed by: Susan Johnson
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: August 17, 2018
Running Time: 99 minutes