Netflix movies provide teens with a plethora of hopeless romantic comedies, all with the same plot. With dozens of original series including “Mr. Sunshine” and “Disenchantment” released during the month of August, it’s hard for a film to stand out among the crowd.
Yet, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” proved to differ from the norm, mainly because of the diversity in the cast. Directed by Susan Johnson (“Carrie Pilby”), the 1 hour 39 minutes long film is based on the 2014 New York Times bestselling series by Korean-American Jenny Han.
The story begins with Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor, “X-Men: Apocalypse”), a 16-year-old Korean-American girl who prefers to stay “invisible” and not part of the popular group of teens, especially Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo, “The Fosters”). Covey stores her letters to five of the boys she has ever loved in a hat box that was given to her by her late mother. After Covey’s younger sister secretly sends out all five of Covey’s love letters, Kavinsky, one of the boys she writes a letter to, confronts her. Covey pretends to date Kavinsky to show her sister’s ex-boyfriend that she is not in love with him, while Kavinsky uses it as an opportunity to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Covey comes up with a written contract, such as watching “Sixteen Candles” and “Fight Club” together, and promises that they can never kiss. In return, she has to go to the senior ski trip with him.
What caught my attention the most with this film was the main female actress—an Asian-American lead. To not only me but also tens of thousands of Asian teenage girls, this shift in dynamic challenges the standards of the film industry. Small references of Asian culture such as Lara Jean’s father making a traditional kimchi dish to Kavinsky trying an Asian yogurt drink Yakult for the first time made me feel proud of my native culture.
This month had truly been historical for Asian minorities, as “Crazy Rich Asians” had also hit success in the movie industry. Seeing more Asian casts in Hollywood merge to the spotlight inspires minorities that race isn’t a barrier to one’s dreams.
As for the filmmaking and graphics, each scene was beautifully taken, and no parts of the film seemed choppy or rushed. Rather, director Susan Johnson was able to pull together quick flashbacks with faded, vintage filters and creative ways to make voice-overs engaging. Along with the vintage vibes, the film’s wardrobe is a pure ‘90s revival, with Covey’s platform combat boots and choker.
Though some parts of the movie seemed cliché––for instance, when Covey dramatically pushes Kavinsky away over a misunderstanding––the film seemed to capture the real-life struggles of adolescents of feeling isolated or being bullied at school.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” seems to focus on the beauty of pure high school love, and although it may not seem realistic or dramatized, the movie leaves us feeling enchanted and wholesome.