To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before excels through unique characters

Social media favourite rom-com boasts standout cast

Lara Jean and Peter on a bus.

An otherwise standard Netflix rom-com has made waves on social media in recent weeks, and it’s largely a credit to its actors’ character development and relatability.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before—based on the novel of the same title and released in mid-August—follows Lara Jean Covey, a shy Korean-American who writes a letter to each boy she’s ever loved. There are five letters in total, all written to boys who do not reciprocate her love—including her sister’s boyfriend Josh. 

Lara Jean keeps her letters secret and stowed away in her closet until they are mysteriously mailed out. To avoid her confronting her real feelings for Josh, she begins a fake relationship with the beautiful and popular Peter Kavinsky.

I first read the book in high school and immediately related to Lara Jean. As a Filipina-Indonesian Canadian, it was refreshing to read a best-selling book focused on an Asian character who I could identify with. 

Although it diverges from the norm with a Korean-American main character, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before focuses on typical rom-com tropes instead of the struggles of being a visible minority. 

Social media’s obsession with the film mostly revolves around Peter, played by Noah Centineo. The actor, who in the film fits the rugged yet vulnerable mold of a teen heartthrob, breathes life into his loveable jock character. 

Despite Peter’s reputation as a typical bro, the audience falls in love with Peter particularly when he and Lara Jean bond over the loss of their parents. Peter’s character makes for a fresh twist on the usual portrayal of teen athletes in films, where their perfect bodies are valued more than their kindness.

Aside from a standout set of characters, the events of the film themselves are nowhere near innovative and leave something to be desired. 

Though its plot isn’t especially noteworthy, Vietnamese-American actress Lana Condor’s lead role in the film is cause enough for celebration. While it’s important to represent minority cultures in the media, it’s just as important to cast people of colour in roles dominated by white actors.

Lara Jean’s emotional journey gaining confidence and opening up to love mirrors rom-com classics like She’s All That and A Cinderella Story. This character arc is irrelevant to ethnicity, yet white actresses chiefly play these kinds of roles.

Condor’s performance proves Asian actors are capable of playing more than the math geek. When underrepresented viewers are shown a diverse cast, they gain an increased feeling of worth and relatability to characters. They see themselves represented as more than the side character they’re usually relegated to in big-budget films. 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is ultimately adorable and lighthearted, with feel-good messages that are fun to come back to in repeat viewings.

Whether or not we see more bestsellers adapted for streaming services, we can all look forward to a To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before sequel.

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