To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the new Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s 2014 novel, brings a sweet, teen-focused approach to one of the most beloved hallmarks of the romantic comedy.
The new Netflix romantic comedy To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, an adaptation of the Jenny Han novel, revels in the in-between. Protagonist Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) finds herself perpetually stuck in the middle: She’s the biracial daughter of an American father (John Corbett) and a deceased Korean mother; she’s the second of three sisters. She’s not quite awkward enough to be a social outcast at school, but she’s certainly not as cool as her former best friend, Gen (short for Genevieve), whose heartthrob boyfriend Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) is their high school’s “king of the cafeteria.”
But for much of the film’s 99-minute run, the most nebulous territory Lara Jean occupies is the space between “real” and “fake” girlfriend. The central tension of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before begins when, unbeknownst to Lara Jean, her little sister, Kitty (Anna Cathcart), mails the love letters Lara Jean has written to her five crushes over the years. “My letters are my most secret possessions,” Lara Jean explains early into the film. “There are five total: Kenny from camp, Peter from seventh grade, Lucas from homecoming, John Ambrose from Model UN, and Josh. I write a letter when I have a crush so intense I don’t know what to do.” That Josh is Lara Jean’s older sister’s boyfriend (and later, ex) renders that specific crush most dangerous.
When Peter, the first boy to address Lara Jean’s affections after having received his letter, approaches her on the track field, Lara Jean notices the envelope in his hands and faints. She recovers from the fainting spell only to notice Josh rapidly walking toward her carrying a letter of his own. Lara Jean adopts a swift, uncharacteristic course of action: She pins Peter onto the track and kisses him. Later, bumping into her at a café, Peter gently reiterates his disinterest in Lara Jean and tells her that he and Gen are only newly broken up. In the delightfully awkward conversation that ensues, Lara Jean admits to Peter that she kissed him to avoid the discomfort of Josh thinking that she likes him. The revelation sets Peter’s scheme into motion, and he proposes a perfect, fraudulent solution: