Does anyone write letters any more? This Netflix movie, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” may stop anyone from writing any kind of letters.
Having lived before texting and sexting, I admit I’ve written a few and I hope, destroyed them all. I actually found writing angry-letters more cathartic except I did make the mistake of mailing a few. Don’t do that–snail mail or email or Tweets.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is based on a best-selling young adult novel by Jenny Han. Our heroine, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) is the middle-child in a motherless household. Her older sister Margot (Janel Parrish of “Pretty Little Liars”) is dating the literal boy-next-door, Josh (Israel Broussard) with whom Lara Jean used to pal around with and currently crushing on.
Lara Jean hasn’t really known love, but her five bouts of puppy love and her current consumption of bodice-ripping novellas inspire her to write and address love letters to those five boys–four of whom she currently attends school with. Margot and Josh take Lara Jean as a sort of chummy chaperone on their dates which only makes Lara Jean day dream of this forbidden love, but Margot is leaving to attend college in Scotland and apparently doesn’t believe in long-distance romance. Breaking off with Josh, Margot seems to have left the Josh door open for Lara Jean, except somehow all five letters were mailed.
Screenwriter Sofia Alvarez and director Susan Johnson have minimized the embarrassment of this situation, but circumstances lead to Lara Jean fake dating the hunky and popular lacrosse player Peter (Noah Centineo) after he was dumped by Lara Jean’s former best friend turned popular mean girl (Emilija Baranac). Gen’s got a college boyfriend now, but keeps Peter on a string.
Lara Jean and Peter make a fake dating contract that includes no kissing (which is not to say that Lara Jean has never been kissed). Lara Jean hopes to make Josh jealous. Peter hopes to get Gen back, but you already know where this is going.
Lara Jean and Peter first learn how to be friends and each draws something out of the other. She’s smart and that’s okay; he’s not as dumb as we initially think he is. Lara Jean’s father Dr. Dan Covey (John Corbett) is low-key, concerned and competent. Lara Jean’s little six, Kitty (Anna Cathcart), is obnoxious, but not precocious (thank you Johnson for that).
Lara Jean’s Korean heritage does play into the movie but isn’t a big issue, but she does force Peter to watch “Sixteen Candles” and while both acknowledge the “racist” content, Lara Jean explains why it’s her favorite movie. We don’t get that insight into “Fight Club” which Lara Jean is contractually required to watch.
The movie is sweet and chaste, about love springing from friendship rather than lust and that’s rather refreshing and not unlike some of the Netflix Japanese and Korean language dramedies.
Just remember, don’t write and address letters unless you’d be okay with them getting mailed and while reading books is wonderful, life is to be lived while you’re young. Don’t forget to have a designated “burn this evidence” friend!
P.S. Never attend a Netflix preview screening. About 200 people had preview screening general tickets but the evening started (6:30 p.m.) with only six tickets available. Most of those who showed up did not get in.