Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Anna Cathcart
Director: Susan Johnson
Running Time: 99 mins
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is an American film about a teenage girl whose life turns to chaos when all the love letters she’s written are exposed.
High school romance movies have never really been my cup of tea. While there have been some absolute gems in the genre, the majority are rather formulaic and trivial affairs. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before doesn’t do all that much to break that stereotype, and although it proves a very likable and pleasant watch throughout, there’s little to it to really engross you beyond a superficial enjoyment.
But even if the movie isn’t a work of cinematic genius, surely all it needs to be is a simple romance that anyone can enjoy, right? After all, high school romances – at their best – are better than any other genre at capturing some of the most universal human emotions, while bringing back the wonder of childhood nostalgia for older viewers.
In all truth, while I wasn’t blown away by this film, the one thing that it does well is get you on side with its characters, and allow you to sympathise with them as much as possible. Above all, the lead performance from Lana Condor is absolutely lovely, and she helps the film to avoid falling into a trap of whiney and trivial teen angst that so many other movies have done before.
So, if you’re looking for a light-herted high school movie that’s got a nice bit of heart, as well as a generally pleasant atmosphere, then this is the film for you. The problem is, while it is a nice film, there really isn’t anything to make it really stand out, or to really engross you beyond a simple smile throughout.
As I said, the high school genre is peppered with some absolute gems, and particularly in recent years, the likes of The Edge Of Seventeen and Eighth Grade have proved masterful at bringing the stories of many modern-day teenagers to the big screen in exhilarating fashion.
Granted, both of those movies lean more towards the coming-of-age side of the genre, whereas To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a more romance-focused piece, but the core of what makes these high school movies great is a deep introspection of the characters involved, something that this film really lacks.
Of course, the best high school movie characters are ones we can all relate to, yet have a distinct individual streak that makes them exciting on screen. That’s why The Breakfast Club is such an all-time classic; a group of people representing all parts of high school society, yet broken down and individualised to the point that they still prove riveting and entertaining presences on screen.
As a result, while this is a nice enough film, it doesn’t go any further into what the genre can do, rather frustratingly sitting content with a fairly shallow and simplistic story that doesn’t lend the dramatic intrigue it possibly could. It’s a likable film, no doubt, but it’s not one that will live long in the memory, and that’s why I’m giving To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before a 7.2 overall.