By Emily McLean
It’s been about 20 years since the last typical romantic comedy hit our screens. The 1980’s and 90’s were the era for this genre: the Romcom. Now it seems that the streaming media Netflix has decided to make 2018 the year of the feel-good genre’s revival, as in August the streaming portal released two new romantic comedies: Sierra Burgess is a Loser and an adaption of Jenny Han’s bestselling novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Candor) is a 16-year-old high school junior who would rather stay at home and watch ‘Golden Girls’ or ‘Sixteen Candles’ with her little sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) than go to parties like other girls her age. Having a soft spot for the dramatic she writes five love letters to the boys she has a crush on, without the intention of ever really sending them. When they do get sent out, her world is turned upside down as one of the boys she wrote a letter to was her older sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh Sanderson (Israel Broussard). Another letter is received by the schools heartthrob Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo who also stared in Sierra Burgess is a Loser), with whom Lara Jean ends up making a pact by pretending to be a couple so Josh thinks Lara Jean has moved on. True to form, Peter K. and Lara Jean end up falling in love, which really isn’t something we weren’t expecting.
Having lost her mother at a very young age, Lara Jean has to take on more responsibility when her older sister Margot (Janel Parrish) leaves for university in Scotland. Margot took over the role of the mother as their dad was a doctor and had to work a lot. She leaves Lara Jean with the duty of looking after their youngest sister Kitty. This is when Lara Jean notices how much Margot sacrificed for her family over the years and the central character realises how much she actually misses their mother. This leads to multiple deep conversations between Lara Jean and Peter, whose dad left his mother, about the importance of family and missing that other parent.
The film is narrated by Lara Jean in hindsight and she explains to us what her motives and motivations were, especially In signing the contract with Peter. The viewer gets a deeper look into the thought processes of the main character.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was directed by Susan Johnson. A year beforehand Johnson was able to have her first try directing the comedy-drama ‘Carrie Pilby’ in 2016/17, but got her big break with ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’. As in to ‘Carrie Pilby’, Johnson works with short, medium and long shots, keeping a balanced symmetry to every camera angle. The camera moves in sync to the background music, adding to the sensation of flow. The clothes worn by the actors include vintage pieces and the colours worn seem to work perfectly with the background, making it look like each shot is seen through rose-coloured glasses. In combination with music from Tears for Fears (‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’) the 90’s Romcom vibe is perfect.
This coming-of-age story in itself isn’t anything new, but it is definitely worth a watch. Even if it’s only for the aesthetically laid out shots. And although the movie also deals with some serious topics, it has a light-hearted, comfortable tone to it which is often provided by the witty little sister, who is quite far for her young age. Kitty brings out the comedic side of the movie, making for some funny conversations and reactions by the other characters. It seems that Netflix has waited the right amount of time to bring back this genre, as the romantic comedy itself definitely is nothing we haven’t seen before, but sometimes that’s just what we need.