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At the heart of TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE is a fake relationship that turns candid 

Netflix

Noah Centineo stars as Peter Kavinsky, who receives a love letter never meant to be sent, from Lana Condor’s Lara Jean

Since its Netflix release on August 17, the Susan Johnson-directed romantic comedy To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has sent social media into overdrive, with young people from across the world blowing up their feeds confessing their love for the film. Here’s why we are loving the show based on the  2014 young adult novel of the same name by Jenny Han. 

A scandalous school trip

Set in Portland, Oregon, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before plays upon all of your typical American high school movie settings with the majority of the memorable scenes taking place on the track field, bathroom stalls, lacrosse pitch, and the all-important local diner. But the film doesn’t rely on overdone and cliched locations to underpin itself as a worthy rom-com. Instead it takes the staples of classics like Grease, High School Musical and Mean Girls, and translates the high-school romance into a colourful, modern setting that resonates with young adults today. Besides, it wouldn’t be right if they didn’t feature a scandalous school trip filled with drama, so we totally approve of the steamy, hot tub-filled trip to the ski lodge which propels the plot forward to the climactic action of the film. 

Mutually beneficial relationship

The 2018 Netflix production stays mostly true to the book’s original plot, only changing some minor details to allow for a successful transition to the screen. Telling a story of sisterhood, love and loss, the show follows Lara Jean Covey (played by Lana Condor), a young girl who writes love letters to boys she has feelings for. Her feelings are so intense that she has to write them down for closure. She stores the letters away in a teal hatbox given to her by her late mother, where they are supposed to remain until the end of time.

Chaos ensues when the box ends up in the wrong hands and the letters get delivered to five boys — Kenny (played by Edward Kewin), a former crush from camp; John Ambrose (played by Jordan Burtchett), from Model UN; Lucas (played by Trezzo Mahoro), now a close friend of Lara Jean who is (somewhat) openly gay; Peter (played by Noah Centineo), whom she fell for following a middle school game of spin the bottle; and most awkwardly Josh Sanderson (played by Israel Broussard), her best friend and her sister’s very recently ex-boyfriend.

After discovering that her letters have somehow been delivered, Lara Jean kisses Peter in order to show she isn’t actually interested in Josh, and what results is the mutually beneficial fake relationship plot drawn up by Peter and Lara Jean to convince the whole school.

TATBILB features a simple premise that gradually unfolds into an engrossing plot filled with laughs, love and drama, offering a new take on the classic fake-couple storyline. Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s “relationship” is portrayed with such sincerity and tenderness, coupled with the natural chemistry of the two leads, that you can’t help but feel genuinely invested in their story.

Lara and her world

The show’s protagonist is 16-year-old Lara Jean, a Korean-American teenager who is trying to deal with the tragic loss of her mother while also juggling the awkward stage that is high school.

Struggling to deal with her emotions, Lara Jean uses several mediums to express herself to the world; the first being her sense of fashion. She regularly rocks quirky, unique looks that allow her to express her confidence where she otherwise struggles to, particularly because of mean girl Gen, Peter’s ex-girlfriend and her former best friend (played by Emilija Baranac).

Another way of dealing with her loss is through her love letters, which allows her an outlet; she admits that she likes to be reminded of how powerful her emotions can be. 

Heart-throb Peter

Lara Jean’s main love interest is Peter, who has stolen the hearts of youngsters all over the world ever since the show began to stream.

Peter is the “King of the Cafeteria” and the star of the lacrosse team, yet he is not portrayed as the classic “jock” stereotype and instead proves himself to be a remarkably sensitive and perceptive guy who occasionally struggles to choose between his head and his heart.

Though the love story of Lara Jean and Peter sets the foundation for the show, it would not be complete without the adorable bond of the Covey sisterhood. The youngest of the sisters, Kitty (played by Anna Cathcart), is the antithesis of Lara as she is the mischievous rebel child who offers much-needed comic relief in a household still haunted by loss and mourning. Their eldest sister, Margot (played by Janel Parrish), who features less due to her decision to move to Scotland for university at the start of the show, proves the importance of familial love when she puts her own emotions aside in the face of Lara’s heartache, stepping up as a much needed motherly figure. 

Why we are rooting for Lara and Peter

It reminds us of our first love — whether it was at high school, university, or even after — and we can relate to the slow burn of feelings that develop in the fake relationship Peter and Lara Jean have committed to. You cannot help but root for them.

We are taken by the sincerity of Peter and his unyielding support for his loved ones, and utterly moved by Lara Jean’s gradual transformation into a free spirit who is willing to let love in, for the good and the bad.... A little dramatic perhaps, but in the spirit of Lara Jean, there’s nothing wrong with a little drama!

ASIAN STORIES CURRENTLY IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Crazy Rich Asians: The film starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding is a love story complicated by dazzling wealth and a treacherous mother. It is the first Hollywood studio movie in 25 years to have an all-Asian cast. 
Searching: The Aneesh Chaganty-directed film (starring John Cho) involves an ingenuous storytelling method involving footage captured from computer screens and apps.

 Text: Emma Thomson & Frederika Park

(Undergraduate students of University of Glasgow who have interned with t2)

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