To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is another Netflix original film that approaches the typical high school comedy in a slightly different way. It centers around an incredibly antisocial teenage girl (Lana Condor) who writes fake letters to every boy that she’s had an intense crush on. She keeps these letters secret and hides them below her bed, but all of that changes once her little sister actually sends them out to the objects of her affection.
Netflix has released more movies recently than many of the major production companies, and, quite honestly, many of them have been completely insufferable. Getting through The Package and Brain on Fire was harder than paying attention to a three-hour powerpoint presentation on thermodynamics. Luckily, Netflix has finally shown some potential with this film, which is a charming retelling of the book of the same name by Jenny Han.
The characters are made so personable because the actors really put effort into bringing them off the page in a lifelike way. The ensemble cast is competent overall, but the one who really rises above the rest is Noah Centineo as one of the subjects of the aforementioned letters. Centineo brings a charisma to his role that, frankly, made the other actors look more mediocre than they actually were. It is also really nice to see an Asian-American female lead in a major film like this. Between Crazy Rich Asians and now To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, it seems that inclusion is making a rise in Hollywood at long last.
One particular aspect of these teen films that I always pick on is the high school part and its accuracy to high school in real life (which may be because I’m actually in high school). Thankfully my critiquing was kept to a minimum, because for the majority of the film, they portray high school as it is. There is no typical “bully” character, the high school characters aren’t pigeonholed into groups of people (thespians, jocks, etc.) and there actors don’t look like they are all thirty-six years old. One thing that struck a chord for me, in particular, was the struggle of finding people to sit with during lunch time, which is something most people can sympathise with.
However, this lack of clichés completely disappears when the final third of the movie starts, which is where nearly all of my problems with the film lie. Until then, the story involving the letters was funny, charming, and compelling, but the final act takes it to a slightly different direction that tarnishes the films experience as a whole. My biggest gripe with this movie is that the writers decide to resort to completely manufactured and unnecessary conflicts in the last thirty minutes. It is also painfully easy to tell exactly where it is going in that amount of time. It seems like the writers thought up this great plot involving letters, had it all written out, and then had absolutely no clue how to end it. So, of course, when in doubt they turned to every cliché in the book to finalize it out.
The final act didn’t keep me from enjoying the good things that To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before had to offer, but it definitely didn’t help my overall perception of the film. As Netflix teen comedies go, this is one of the better ones, probably right up there with Alex Strangelove. However, if you are looking for a good high school movie or TV show then I also highly recommend Love, Simon.
Netflix has had some real stinkers lately (*cough* Mute *cough*), so it’s nice to see a release that is a genuinely enjoyable film, even if it doesn’t 100% stick the landing. If the plot doesn’t interest you, the characters will still likely win you over by the halfway point; this is more than can be said about many other films released throughout this summer.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is streaming on Netflix today.
by Joel Alexander