Movie review: "To All the Boys I've Loved Before"

Like the protagonist of the new Netflix movie To All the Boys I've Loved Before, I, too, had a fake boyfriend in high school. Our relationship lasted an entire football game. We were trying to make his ex-girlfriend and my current crush, who were dating each other, jealous. But my ulterior motive was that I relished flirting in the bleachers with the boy I'd been obsessed with since seventh grade.

I hadn't made the connection between the plot of To All the Boys I've Loved Before and an experience from my formative years. That's probably because everything about that experience and the insane crush leading up to it is super hazy. That's the thing about getting old. 

But once I started watching, I was overwhelmed by the memory of how heightened everything was when I was a teenager. That's something I enjoy about YA novels even as a solidly 30-year-old woman. They remind me of a more vulnerable and open time where everything felt monumental. And it's refreshing that there are more YA movie adaptations lately that make use of the already intense emotional stakes of youth, without having to throw in tyrannical dystopian regimes or terminal cancer. Lest we forget 2018 also blessed us with  Love, Simon. It's not just YA, though. With films like the instantly iconic Set It Up, it seems like the rom-com genre is on the come up again.

Lara Jean Covey is a shy high schooler whose love life consists of reading romance novels and writing secret letters to her crushes. When her letters get out, she panics because one of them was written to her sister's boyfriend, Josh. So she agrees to a fake relationship with one of the other letter recipients, Peter, to avoid coming clean to Josh about her feelings. But in the grand tradition of romances, things don't exactly go according to plan.

This movie is so adorable and benefits from two charming leads with fantastic chemistry. It pays homage to the teen romantic comedies that came before it, from John Hughes movies (referenced outright, naturally) to hints of films like She's All That and Easy A. And although it feels fresh, it does lean on a lot of old tropes and only sort of tries to subvert the problematic ones, such as teen girls fighting over a boy.

But overall, I was delighted by this and really hope that there's a sequel, since there were two more books in the series this was adapted from and there was a major hint toward a sequel in the mid-credits scene. It's got romance, laughs and John Corbett as a hot single dad. So while this movie may be for the young adults, there's something for mommy, too.