Recently, Netflix has released a flurry of feel-good rom-coms that have captivated their audience. Based upon the book by Jenny Han and directed by Susan Johnson, To All the Boys I Loved Before has especially thrilled viewers with its unique plotline and memorable, lovable characters. However, it isn’t just a cute movie; it also addresses and even breaks tropes associated with the rom-com genre. Here are three reasons why To All the Boys I Loved Before is refreshing and revitalizing the rom-com genre.
Romance Is Depicted as Complex, Just Like in Real Life
Nothing about Lara Jean Covey’s (Lana Condor) crushes are even remotely easy. Out of the five boys she sends love letters, two of them become the frontrunners to her heart. One is her ex-best friend’s boyfriend and the most popular boy in school, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) and the other is her childhood best friend Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard) and older sister’s ex-boyfriend. In a lot of rom-coms, these two boys would be competing for Lara Jean’s and reduced to the typical stereotypes of hopelessly enamored best friend and disrespectful popular guy with a heart of gold. Nevertheless, To All The Boys I Loved Before breaks down these stereotypes into nuanced versions: Peter always defends Lara Jean against her bullies and treats her with the utmost respect while Josh actively tries to talk to her about her feelings as well as his own. Lara Jean has her share of complexity, as she tries to deal with her feelings for her sister’s boyfriend while developing feelings for a (seemingly) fake boyfriend. Throwing in a meddling little sister, an mean-girl ex-best friend with a shockingly developed back story, and a host of quirky minor characters, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before shows life and love in its most realistic, natural, and messy form.
The Main Relationship Is Natural
One of the things that people like to point out is that rom-com couples usually don’t know each other for very long before they inevitably fall in love. It’s hard to suspend disbelief and also root for the couple if they’ve only been together for a couple of days. However, we know from the get-go that Lara Jean knew all of the boys she wrote letters to well, especially Peter and Josh. Throughout Peter and Lara Jean’s fake relationship, we see a motif of months passing on a poster, denoting even more time that the two had for developing their feelings for each other. It makes rooting for them a lot more believable than most other rom-com couples who fall in love over the course of a couple of days.
The Relationships Between Characters Are Actually Healthy
Usually, rom-coms are filled to the brim with jealous exes, friends, and family members who try to sabotage the couple or others. Even the couple itself are prone to wittily insulting each other before inevitably falling in love. This definitely isn’t the case with this movie. To start, Laura Jean never makes a move on Josh, even after her sister breaks up with him. The Covey sisters are always supportive of each other, and their dad is lovable if a bit misguided at times. The boys in Laura Jean’s life only care about her best interest, even if it means putting themselves on the line to help her whenever she needs it. Even her relationship with her ex-best friend, Gen (Emilija Baranac), is not simply seen as a double-sided hatred. We realize that Gen has always held a grudge against Laura Jean for kissing Peter back in middle school when she liked him. As silly as this seems, this kind of nuance only broadens our understanding of the characters and shows as many dimensions to their personalities as possible.
In all, To All the Boys I Loved Before isn’t just a great rom-com; it shows how good teen movies can be when the right people are behind and in front of the scenes.
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