A Love Letter to the New Netflix Original
By: Cassandra Lane
Lately, there has been an extreme downfall in the Romantic Comedy genre- that is, until Jenny Han, the author of “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” joined forces with screenwriter Sofia Alvarez and Netflix to create a film that changed the opinions of many.
The main character, Asian-American Lara Jean Song-Covey, is played by Lana Condor. Lara is a young woman who makes it clear she doesn’t need any man to complete her, yet she struggles with certain aspects of her life such as losing her mother at a young age and having to replace her sister, Margot, who leaves for college in Scotland.
Jenny Han, author of the best-selling novel, spoke about what exactly she was trying to do when writing this story and this character, telling Vanity Fair, “I went into it hoping to write a modern, classic love story that felt really warm and cozy…I wrote [Lara Jean] for the girls who aren’t quite ready for next steps.”
And that she did.
At the start of the film, Lara Jean is fine being unnoticed and pushed to the side, but before she knows it, she’s suddenly the heroine of her own story, and for once, not in her imagination. Lara Jean is comfortable in her own skin and finds no need to change anything about herself; something rare in other romantic comedies such as Mean Girls or Clueless.
Not only is Han’s story light-hearted, funny and charismatic, but it is touching in a way that many haven’t seen in a long time. Coming from a refreshing and extremely relatable point of view, Han and Alvarez make a brilliant character come to life without mocking teenage girls.
Though there have been great rom-coms in the past, “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” has taken the genre to another level, bringing comfort we’ve yearned for.
“Our news is so heavy, I don’t really have room in my heart for a lot of cynicism and negativity in my entertainment…I want to see a 16-year-old girl falling in love, and I want to experience warm rom-coms. It’s a nice form of escapism that I think we’ve been missing for a while—and maybe we were missing it because we didn’t need it, and now we need it again,” Alvarez told Vanity Fair.
Rom-Coms haven’t been so popular lately. Han spoke about how there has been a lack of these films for about 15 years. Many believe the category to be boring or outdated, but with the work of Han and Alvarez, this thought disappears and becomes something so much more- something people can be hopeful about.
Representation was woven into the film without resorting to stereotypes. Characters were painted as fully formed human beings.
There was also a scene where Peter Kavinsky, the romantic interest played by Noah Centineo, watches “Sixteen Candles” with Lara Jean, pointing out the clear racism when it comes to the character Long Duk Dong.
Something noticeable and valued by viewers was how normalized everything was. There was no need for a big conversation about Lara Jean’s heritage and Peter didn’t need to have some sort of life-changing realization that being non-white is different. He saw who she was and so did everyone else.
This movie isn’t just about Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky becoming a couple. It’s also about her sisters, her father, her best friend, and her former crush Lucas.
Overall, the film is a breath of fresh air. Han also wrote for The New York Times about Lara Jean’s race, saying, “One producer said to me, as long as the actress captures the spirit of the character, age and race don’t matter. I said, well, her spirit is Asian-American…What would it have meant for me back then to see a girl who looked like me star in a movie? Not as the sidekick or romantic interest, but as the lead? Not just once, but again and again? Everything.”
Rom-coms past and present, you can take a note or two from this one.
“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is now streaming on Netflix.