To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Romantic comedies are fun because almost all of the problems the characters face in their stories can be solved by one word: communication. If they talked more openly, or were more willing to listen to someone else when they try to explain misunderstandings, then their lives would be more or less perfect. But because they don’t, the movie happens, the faux-drama can take place, and we can be “entertained”—for lack of a better word—for a couple of hours.

Now here’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a Netflix Original whose central character needs to learn a lesson about communication. She’s high school junior Lara Jean (Lana Condor), and her life is about to be turned upside down. See, for years she’s written love letters any time she had an intense crush on a boy, but she had no desire to send them; it was a way to get those feelings out in the open and begin processing them. The letters get out. She then has to deal with the five guys (mmm, burgers) who receive them.

What results from this is a childish plot that is going to make most of the adults watching it roll their eyes. It’s about as deep as an episode of a sitcom in which a character pretends to date someone to make someone else jealous … only to wind up unsure of with whom who he or she is really in love. It’s not deep or insightful to anyone over the age of the characters, but if you are of that age, it might be effective enough. And that’s fine, I suppose. Not every movie needs to have universal appeal and insight, after all.

And even if you are an adult and choose to watch it, it’s a sight better than many of the other Netflix Originals you could pick. It has some laughs, the acting is pretty solid, and one of the lessons its protagonist learns is a good one. It’s cutesy, adorkable, kiddie fair, and if that description didn’t give you an aneurysm then you might have a decent enough time with it.

But, like most romantic comedies, it’s also filled with cliches, the plot is largely unengaging, the characters aren’t particularly deep, the supporting characters are especially shallow, and the whole thing will leave your mind almost a second after it ends. This isn’t a movie that lingers and it’s not something you’ll probably ever want to watch again, but as an afternoon distraction, it’ll pass the time decently. That’s true of many of these Netflix Originals, though, and at this point I feel like I’m repeating myself. Few are good, even fewer are great, and many of them fall into this mediocre range where there isn’t much reason to watch them, but there’s not a ton to hate about them, either.

That’s true of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, too. It’s a mediocre movie that you won’t hate to have on in the background, but it’s not going to do anything positively or negatively for you, especially if you’re not really close to the age of its protagonist. It has some decent laughs and the acting is solid, but it’s a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. I hear the book is okay. And while I’m not advocating you read a book over seeing a movie (that would be off-brand), maybe check it out if the premise sounds interesting.

Conclusion: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a decent but unengaging romantic comedy.

Recommendation: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is another Netflix Original destined to be background noise.

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