Warning: Major Spoilers.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a 2018 Netflix film based on the book of the same name by Jenny Han. The premise of the film is that sixteen year old Lara Jean has spent most of her adolescent life writing love letters to all the boys she’s had a crush on, the most important one being her older sisters current boyfriend Josh. When the film begins her sister Margot is leaving the US to go to university in Scotland, and leaving Josh behind heartbroken. Lara Jean doesn’t pursue him because she knows it would be a betrayal to her sister, despite them being broken up. But when those love letters are mailed to all five boys she’s ever crushed on, things start to get complicated.
In order to preserve some of her dignity she avoids Josh at all costs. But he isn’t her only problem. The school jock Peter seeks her out on the running track with the intention of letting her down easy, explaining he is still in love with his ex Gen. Lara Jean informs him she never really liked him, but had to make it look like she did so her real crush Josh wouldn’t figure out she still likes him. Therefore, Peter suggests they pretend to be a couple in order to make their crushes jealous.
You may be thinking this sounds awfully like a lot of other pretend relationship films out there. The Wedding Date, The Proposal, How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days, We’re The Millers – honestly, the list is endless. This film could also sound like a multitude of fanfiction stories – and trust me, there’s a lot of them.
If you’re looking for originality then you probably won’t find it in this film. I knew immediately Peter and Lara Jean would fall for each other, it’s the thing that makes this type of film a cliché. Having said that, I still enjoyed it. I think a lot of viewers can be so focused on finding originality, they lose what made it a ‘cliché’ in the first place. I don’t believe all clichés are bad, because at one point it was considered a new and fresh storyline. And while you probably would catch yourself rolling your eyes at some of the things Lara Jean does, it was entertaining – and even cute at times.
The one thing I do want to praise the film for was its portrayal of family. Lara Jean is so connected to her sisters and vice versa. They love each other unconditionally and even give up love interests and nights out with friends in order to make the other one happy. I liked this familial aspect, especially paralleled with the death of their mother and how even so many years later it is still fresh and raw on their minds. This is what made it more believable to me that Lara Jean and Peter would connect, as his father had run away from his family and left them alone. Both of those characters feel this parental loss and I thought the inclusion of this way key to making the film feel less fanfiction-y and more realistic.
There’s something about this type of film that seems to work again and again. You find yourself rooting for the characters, even if your literary-savvy brain is telling you to hate everything about it. I won’t deny I liked this film, and I can recognise when a familiar trope is working time after time.
So overall, I’d recommend watching at least once, but I wouldn’t expect a huge plot twist, because you probably will see it coming.
(Well you will now I’ve pretty much told you the entire plot.)