When someone says teen romance, it takes me back to my high school days, be it the butterflies in my stomach on seeing my crush or day dreaming about my first date while gorging on tubs of ice-cream and bars of chocolates all by myself or day dreaming about my wedding with my crush in between classes. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before reminded me of my teenage years in high school. Based on Jenny Han’s 2014 New York Times bestseller of the same name, this Netflix film has an interesting premise. A premise that is both exciting and scary.
The protagonist, Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor), writes love letters whenever she has a crush on someone. These are not just any old love letters, these are Lara Jean’s hidden coveted thoughts put on paper. The five letters, as she says in the film, are her most secret possessions until her younger sister mails all of them.
One of the recipient of her love letters is Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), her middle school crush. They start fake dating because Lara Jean does not want her sister’s ex-boyfriend and the recipient of one of those letters to think she has a crush on him and also because Peter wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. They make a contract, which includes taking part in each other’s interests and hobbies. One of the cutest things Peter does, which is a part of their contract, is to write small notes to Lara Jean. Although they are in a fake relationship, they are their most honest selves with each other; therefore, real feelings get in the way.
Their fake-real relationship grows over time. One thing that connects them is being raised by single parents. They start off being friends, hanging out together but end up spending time with each other’s family, be it watching movies with Lara Jean’s sister or having dinner with Peter’s mother.
Unlike most teen romances, this one is not just about their summer romance, but also who Lara Jean is. The highlight of the film is the protagonist’s ethnic background. Lara Jean is an Asian-American character. A round of applause, just for that. The film portrays her as a regular teenage girl who lives in the USA and also embraces her maternal Korean roots. At no point in the film does her identity override who she is, as an individual, outside of her ethnicity. She is clumsy, shy, introverted, confused, opinionated and, like most of us, afraid to get her heartbroken.
Teen romances, with their escapist plots, are as much about the characters as about ourselves. We live vicariously and have our romantic desires fulfilled through the characters. It’s escapism at its best. The film’s visual palette has happy, playful colours like pinks, yellows, light greens and light blues to symbolise their summer romance. Although it seems imaginary and too good to be true, who doesn’t need a mushy, feel-good teen romance on Valentine’s Day?
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.