to all the boys i've loved before

Do you remember what it was like to have a crush on someone? Like a full-fledged, cheeks burning, fingers tingling kind of crush. One where your heart beats a mile a minute, and your tongue feels like toffee because oh my god, you’re drowning in those baby blue eyes. That’s what watching To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is like.

The teen romantic-comedy based on Jenny Han‘s YA novel of the same name is the latest entry in Netflix’s wildly successful rom-com Renaissance. And it is by far the best one yet. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is simultaneously evocative of our favorite John Hughes movies while being wonderfully modern in the best ways. All together, those elements make To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before the new gold standard for what a teen rom-com should be. And here are the reasons why you should watch it immediately.

The film follows high school wallflower Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), who spends her days writing secret letters she’ll never send to her unrequited crushes. But her current and most off-limits crush: Josh, her older sister’s dreamy boyfriend and Lara Jean’s best friend. Or, rather, ex-boyfriend. But one day, her secret letters all get sent out to their subjects. Lara Jean panics and strikes up an agreement with one of the recipients whom she no longer has feelings for, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). Peter wants to make his ex-girlfriend and resident mean girl Gen (Emilija Baranac) jealous, while Lara Jean wants to throw Josh off her trail. And thus begins the famous rom-com trope of a fake relationship. We all know what happens next.

It’s Not Afraid of Its Rom-Com Roots

Every person has that moment when they realize they have real feelings for their fake boyfriend/girlfriend. No? Just me? Wait, not just me because that’s never happened in real life. But it happens an astounding amount of times in rom-coms. From Pretty Woman to every other Sandra Bullock movie, fake relationships are a cornerstone of the rom-com genre. And To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before plays up that rom-com trope as gleefully as possible. Rom-coms aren’t exactly known for their unpredictability, but in a time where the real world is maddeningly (and frighteningly) unpredictable, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before gives us exactly what we need: a reason to swoon over an age-old trope that’ll go exactly as we expect it to.

It Stars a Lovable Asian-American Heroine

What a time to be an Asian-American rom-com lead. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was released on the same weekend as Crazy Rich Asians, and both Lana Condor and Constance Wu proved that they have more than enough charm to carry their own rom-com franchises.

Lara Jean Covey is the rare Asian-American heroine in a rom-com, and even rarer, exists in a film that makes loving references to her culture. In what other movie will a pivotal plot point revolve around the Korean yogurt drink Yakult? What other movie will feature John Corbett trying and failing to cook Korean food? And it almost didn’t happen — in an essay for The New York Times, Jenny Han revealed that nearly every production company that wanted to adapt her best-selling book asked to whitewash its heroine. “I ended up deciding to work with the only production company that agreed the main character would be played by an Asian actress,” Han wrote. It was important to Han to have Lara Jean be Asian-American, because “seeing a face that looks like yours do something, be someone. There is power in moving from the sidelines to the center.” The little nods and references to Lara Jean’s half-Asian, half-American identity are delightful, and add to the texture of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

The Male Lead is an Unproblematic Dreamboat

The bad boy with a soft side is so passé when you’ve got Peter Kavinsky, the ultimate perfect boyfriend. But Peter is more than just a check list of the ideal boyfriend traits, he’s the revolution of the rom-com male lead. On the surface, Peter seems like your typical teen love interest: he’s popular, he’s a jock, he’s got a mean girlfriend who erroneously makes fun of Lara Jean’s objectively cute boots. Of course he will change from a bullish, arrogant popular dude into a sensitive boyfriend once he begins “fake dating” Lara Jean — or that’s what the rom-coms until now would lead you to expect.

The truth is, Peter Kavinsky was always a good, empathetic, compassionate guy who cared about Lara Jean’s needs, without her having to “fix” him in any way. He respects Lara Jean’s boundaries, he writes her special notes, he protects the popcorn in a pillow fight, and he’s not afraid of having emotionally honest conversations with Lara Jean. It helps that the bashful, swoon-worthy performance that Noah Centineo gives as Peter Kavinsky is reminiscent of Mark Ruffalo at the height of his rom-com reign (13 Going on 30 anyone!). Everything down to his voice! His hair! His gestures! Seriously, close your eyes when Peter Kavinsky talks and imagine it’s Mark Ruffalo caressing your face while whispering to you about Yakult. Ahem, what? I didn’t say anything.

It Has All the Charms of a John Hughes Movie, Updated for Modern Times

Every five years, there’s another high school rom-com that seeks to replicate the warmth, funniness, and raw authenticity of a John Hughes movie. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before manages to do that, and avoid some of the pitfalls of ’80s gender and racial politics. While the Netflix movie features the many familiar characters and plot twists of a Hughes movie, it still feels refreshingly modern. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before even nods to its Hughes-ian predecessors, with Lara Jean’s obsession with Sixteen Candles (barring the racist depiction of Long Duk Dong of course) and, of course, Peter Kavinsky’s heart-fluttering back-pocket twirl.

The Cinematography is Unexpectedly Gorgeous

Far too many comedies these days aren’t creative enough when it comes to the look of a film. When the jokes are the centerpiece, why do anything more than a point-and-shoot? But with a romantic-comedy, and especially with To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, the cinematography and set design is pivotal to the film. Director Susan Johnson and director of photography Michael Fimognari did a fabulous job at crafting a sunny, vibrantly colored world that evoke emotions of nostalgia, loneliness, and empathy. And it just so pretty to look at.

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