“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” resurrects teen comedy genre

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“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a Netflix original movie that has become widely successful and has revived the teen romantic comedy genre.

The story’s protagonist is Lara Jean Song-Covey who is biracial, half Caucasian and half Korean. Her ethnic background can be observed in her family’s traditions and customs. For example, her father frequently tries to cook traditional Korean dinners for them, though he is not very good at it.

Lara Jean is also very shy, which means she has a hard time talking to people whom she is romantically interested in, so she writes letters detailing how she feels about them and puts them away in a hatbox her mother gave her.

Somehow these five letters are sent out to each crush she has had, which includes her older sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh and her former best friend’s boyfriend, Peter.

To avoid the awkward conversation with Josh and hurting her sister, she decides to take Peter up on his offer of a fake relationship. What ensues is a sweet love story between these two characters.

The crushes getting their letters and the fake dating are plot devices this genre is known for, but the well-developed characters, relationships and treatment of each other make this film stand out.

Many teen romantic comedy staples such as “She’s All That” and “10 Things I Hate About You” have at least one character that treats the protagonist badly and is supported by their peers or their comments are ignored by them.

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” does have a character who can be seen as the “mean girl” of the film, but she is chastised by her peers for her mean comments and apologizes. This is the way high school really is. There are exceptions to this rule, but the majority of the time, people are decent and polite to each other.

The relationships are the core of the film and revolve around family and romantic interests. One major familial bond is Margo, Lara Jean and Kitty or, as they call themselves, “The Song Girls.” They are very close and see another as best friends or confidantes.

This is uncommon in movies, because most depict siblings as jealous of each other, especially in movies that surround teenagers. Yet “To All the Boy I’ve Loved Before” cements this relationship as one of love and trust.

The same could be said for Peter, who she is initially using to evade Josh, and Lara Jean tries to distance herself from him emotionally. She creates a contract with him which includes rules such as no kissing and no telling the truth.

The absence of truth in others does not stop the two from divulging their feelings of loss because they both have lost a parent but in different ways. Lara Jean has lost her mother because of cancer, while Peter’s father chose to be absent from his life. This begins the process of Lara Jean bringing down her walls and letting someone in.

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a triumph in many ways and has resurrected a genre that once lay dormant. The ethnic and racial barriers it breaks are paving ways for new faces that we usually do not see in Hollywood and is creating the want for real characters. The future is one full of hope and diversity thanks to this film.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
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