Roar writer Scarlett Yu reviews the new Netflix film, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved: Always and Forever”.
Who could have missed the chance to be satisfyingly pierced with a wide sensation of emotional sweetness and delight from Netflix’s recent teen romance hit, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved: Always and Forever,” released right in the midst of Valentine’s? Although the ways and modes in which we spend the holiday are unfortunately distorted in times of crisis, one could still find something innately heartwarming and joyous in the fictional world of Lara Jean and her high school drama.
Adapted from Jenny Han’s YA romances, the compelling story of Lara Jean’s teenage anecdote first emerged into international spotlight in 2018, when the first book’s film adaptation instantly grasped public attention and ascended to the top as one of the most popular, highly admired movies in celebration of a pure, swoonsome romance. In my opinion, part of the reason why “To All the Boys I’ve Loved” could attain such widespread recognition and love from audiences around the world lies in its ability to visually depict an enriching set of characters and circumstances set under a seemingly ordinary high school background.
First of all, we get to see the uniqueness and vigor in Lara Jean’s character beam across the screen in stimulating and sometimes humorous conditions throughout the plot. The ultimate motive of the story, coming from the pile of unmailed love letters she had written to commemorate the crushes she once had throughout her childhood and teenage years, is ridiculously funny at first glance. I couldn’t help but fall for her cuteness and ludicrous behaviours in investing such exquisite sentiment for every love she encountered.
When the film takes an unexpectedly volatile turn as her mischievous sister, Kitty, sends the letters to their corresponding recipients, it’s a hilariously doomed end for Lara Jean. As she’s suddenly thrown into a dense pack of embarrassment and shock at how wild things turn out to be, little does she know that Kitty’s unwitting act, originally condemned with great resistance, will plunge her into a poignant and winding experience of romantic blossoms and cutting heartaches. Plus, is there anything more enjoyable than watching the fluctuating journey of a pure-minded girl, who once held strong longings for a beautiful romance, spark a heartfelt relationship with high-school heartthrob, Peter Kavinsky, in the most unexpected occasions?
Notably, what I love the most about this series is how boldly it shows stimulative moments of character mischief and wit, flowing naturalistically along the swift passing of interpersonal dialogues and ostensible circumstances. The constant small fights between Lara Jean and Kitty, as they verbally clash with each other while holding their own quirkiness, conspicuously embodies what a real sisterly relationship looks like: easily triggered with trivial conflicts but also filled with so much unspoken love. It is at this overlapping tension between normalcy and sensational acts of characters that I feel an utmost charm of the story. The first two films introduce the audience into an exhilarating world of Lara Jean, where we closely follow her perspective on the radical shifts and turns of high school struggles and emotional entanglements; on maintaining what is left of her family, recovering severed friendships, and discovering where her heart lies. The beauty that flows beneath these continuous representations of teenage experience is the fact that the story is fundamentally built on the genuine simplicities of wonder and discovery during high school.
As this popular series comes to an end, Lara Jean is thrust into a struggling dilemma between love and her dream. After building a strong, spiritual connection with the city of New York during a school trip, something in her mind wavers and changes. The dazzling landscape of the city not only elicits an unforgettable inspiration within her heart, but also teaches her to perceive and judge things through an unprejudiced lens. Conclusively, what the film intends to stress on this matter is the idea of following one’s heart. Cast aside the external factors and emotional disturbances surrounding her self, Lara Jean may find what real happiness is like along the pathway of life. Ending on this note, the film gives us a satisfactory conclusion we so assuredly expected, drawing a perfect farewell to this love story which had been kept vigorously alive in these adaptations for three years.
When I finished the film, I found myself persistently drifting back to various moments of the scenes, which eventually morphed into fleeting flashbacks that glided so briskly across the back of my mind. It is a nostalgic affection that is inexplicably keen on bringing me back to the time when I was undergoing the same anxious period of struggle in the senior year of high school. Pulled between the exasperating waiting of college applications results and the need to depart away from the life I was used to inhabiting for the past 18 years, it was an extremely troubling time because so many things were starting to change and perspectives were being directed towards different paths the closer my footsteps touched the point of graduation. Seeing how the film vividly presents the stages of growth and self cognition that Lara Jean was encountering, I feel as if I’m looking at a reflection of my own high school experience; and her emitting charisma has substantially enriched that experience.
Unique and lovely in its own interpretation of high school, the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved” trilogy has given me an array of striking impressions: a breath of fresh air for its lively teenage depictions, a delightful vision of pure romance in its sheerest lure, and a refined integration of family bonds and friendship. Watching the dramatic ups and downs visually unfolding before my eyes is very much like experiencing that youthful process of growth I’ve come to miss and long for over the years; all those times I heartily laughed, cried, sympathised, learned, and would eventually reflect on with ease and assurance.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved: Always and Forever” is available on Netflix.