Netflix’s “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” Introduces Newest Teen Heartthrob

There’s no doubt that the name Peter Kavinsky has been circulating around social media lately. Kavinsky—the internet world’s newest teen heartthrob—was first introduced in the 2014 novel “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” to a crowd of book-lovers, and he was reintroduced on Aug. 17 in a Netflix adaptation to romantic comedy fanatics. The story centers around Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), a high school junior who deals with all the boys she has loved before (five in total) by writing them unsent letters and fantasizing about romance in books. The conflict begins when the five current and past love interests receive the letters mysteriously.

The movie has been a fan favorite among teens. Just as initially Lara Jean vicariously lives through reading romance books, teens have been watching—and rewatching—the movie to vicariously live Lara Jean’s life. Netflix’s adaptation of Jenny Han’s novel “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” although widely praised for Lara Jean’s relatability and Peter Kavinsky’s (Noah Centineo) charm, is yet another romantic comedy full of flat characters who deserve to have their own stories told through more screen time.  

With the screenplay by Sofia Alvarez, the movie highlights Lara Jean’s character development. At the beginning of the movie, she is a shy, somewhat-awkward high school student who lives in her books and letters that she writes. Instead of confronting her crushes, she writes letters and addresses them with no intention to send them. The boys that she loved in the past consist of Kavinsky, Lucas (Trezzo Mahoro), Kenny (Edward Kewin), John (Jordan Burtchett) and Josh (Israel Broussard). The problem is that Josh is the ex-boyfriend of Margot (Janel Parrish), Lara Jean’s sister. Once the letters are sent out, Lara Jean makes a deal with Kavinsky to fake a relationship in order to avoid discussing the letter with Josh.

Lara Jean is a character that can relate to many of the teen viewers, in that her emotions are a large part of the plot. Her development is brilliantly represented through the metaphor of her driving a car. At the beginning of the movie, she is terrified to drive her sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) to school because of her bad driving. Driving is a universal symbol for adulthood. Lara Jean is scared to drive, just as she is scared to have real feelings for Kavinsky. The film has coming-of-age themes, and Lara Jean’s character is therefore relatable for and popular among teen viewers.

Another fan-favorite of the movie is Kavinsky, as he has quickly becomes a paragon of the perfect boyfriend. Kavinsky is a lacrosse player, who has just broken up with the school mean girl, Gen (Emilija Baranac). He has two layers within himself: a jock and a sensitive romantic. Lara Jean uncovers his vulnerable side as they spend more time together. Unlike other films which feature love interests as stereotypical masculine figures, “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” highlights more than one side of Kavinsky.

Even though the film is widely popular for the main characters, it only scratches the surface of the story in all. For instance, Josh’s character gets barely any screen time. At the beginning, Lara Jean focuses only on loving Josh, which is an interesting conflict, as he was dating her sister. Josh was Lara Jean’s initial love interest as shown in the movie, but he was barely in the rest. Just as Lara Jean starts to date Kavinsky to avoid Josh, the film avoids Josh, as well. Other than the brief mention of Lara Jean’s past friendship with him, the viewers learn nothing about Josh. He is a character that could by dynamic, so it is unfair that only a part of his story is told.

Lara Jean’s sisters, Margot and Kitty, do not have their stories told either, as all that is shown about them is that they just complicate Lara Jean’s love life. Margot goes to college and is practically not seen again until the end of the movie, and Kitty is simply portrayed as the annoying younger sister. The film focuses purely on the two main characters, making characters like Josh, Margot and Kitty flat. In itself, the movie is a cliche of a romantic comedy that does not expand beyond the original book.

The relationship between Lara Jean and Kavinsky, as well as their relatable and charming characters, is the highlight of “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Condor’s portrayal of Lara Jean is executed outstandingly, for she is believable as an introspective teenage girl. However, the film only focuses on a surface level an overly-told girl-meets-boy story. In turn, other characters do not get their stories told, which could have added another layer of complexity. In all, the movie deserves critique for lowering other characters’ statuses and praise for giving the internet Peter Kavinsky, social media’s newest heartthrob.

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