To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is wholesome teenage fantasy. It tells the story of Lara Jean (played by Lana Condor), a sweet and shy girl who develops crushes very easily but struggles to actually make connections with boys. This will be a bittersweet memory for many, and a fresh of breath air for current teenagers frustrated watching media feed them ideas of breezy confident teens engaging in casual sex (which is fine and real but not the reality for all). Watching this film is akin to curling up with a hot drink at a sleepover and finding out that you’re not as different as you thought.
The film doesn’t ridicule or sneer at its characters, unfortunately this is a rarity for media aimed at teenage girls! We recognise young girls as a lucrative demographic but boy do we hate em for it. Director Susan Johnson deftly explores LJ’s urge to make a connection and by the end we understand that losing her mother young has given Lara Jean a fear of loss so strong that she can’t let any of her crushes get close. There are visual separations and frames throughout the first half of the film to reflect the distance LJ fiercely maintains, this gradually breaks down and the colour palette moves from gentle pastels to sharp vibrant blues and reds when Lara Jean and Peter (Noah Centineo) finally kiss. It’s a well-constructed film which accounts for its mass popularity.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a great example of American-Vietnamese representation. Because Lara Jean and her sisters just exist as American-Vietnamese people, it’s there but it’s not signposted constantly because it’s just part of who they are, an aspect of their experience – which is how whiteness and white characters relationship with race is always portrayed.