Netflix keeps on churning out romantic comedies, and we’re not complaining.
Last week, they released To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which stars Lana Condor (X-Men: Apocalypse) as Lara Jean Song Covey, a 16-year-old girl who copes with “intense” crushes by writing love letters she never plans to send out.
SPOILER ALERT: All five letters wind up getting sent, and Lara Jean is forced to confront her feelings. In an effort to undo some of the damage, Lara Jean makes a classic romcom move and pretends to date Peter (Noah Centineo) – a longtime classmate and one of her letter subjects – who has a motive of his own: making his ex-girlfriend jealous.
The movie and its lead actors, in particular, are generating a lot of buzz. Here’s everything you should know about Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved.
It’s based on a book
The film is adapted from Jenny Han’s YA novel of the same name. Published in 2014, Han’s novel became a New York Times bestseller, and led to the well-reviewed sequel: P.S. I Still Love You.
It’s getting rave reviews
The movie, directed by Susan Johnson, currently holds a 94 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. News website Vox called it “an unabashedly sweet movie” and says it “might be the best teen romance of the decade”. Entertainment website Vulture dubbed it a “sweet and savvy film”.
The lead character is Asian-American. That’s a big deal
Lara Jean is Korean-American, and also biracial.
Condor told Teen Vogue that she was “beyond thrilled” that the audition callout specifically referenced Lara Jean as an “Asian-American love interest”.
That was no small feat, as Han recalled in an op-ed for The New York Times. Han wrote that there was interest in adapting her novel even before it was released, but that “the interest died as soon as I made it clear the lead had to be Asian-American”.
“One producer said to me, as long as the actress captures the spirit of the character, age and race don’t matter,” Han wrote. “I said, well, her spirit is Asian-American. That was the end of that.” Ultimately, Han said she ended up working with “the only production company that agreed the main character would be played by an Asian actress”.
Lara Jean isn’t the film’s only Asian-American character, either. She has two sisters, Margot and Kitty, played respectively by Janel Parrish (of Pretty Little Liars fame) and Anna Cathcart (of Disney’s Descendants franchise).
That said, the movie is getting some backlash because none of Lara Jean’s love interests are Asian. Han addressed the criticism in an interview with movie website IndieWire.
“I understand the frustration and I share that frustration of wanting to see more Asian-American men in media,” she told the site. “For this, all I can say is this is the story that I wrote.”
Keep an eye on Lana Condor and Noah Centineo
Two of the films stars in particular – Condor and Centineo – are being praised for their performances.
Vulture’s Emily Yoshida wrote, “Condor is a ready-made star, and Centineo rises to meet her, the adoring, throaty lunk any introverted teen dreams of coming around and melting away her shyness.”
Director Johnson recently told The Washington Post that Centineo is “the Tom Hanks” of his generation, and added that “he seems much older than his years and much younger in some ways”.
Centineo will take centre stage in another Netflix romcom, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, which stars Shannon Purser (that’s Barb from Stranger Things) and is scheduled to be released on September 7.
Condor, meanwhile, has a supporting role in Alita: Battle Angel, due out in December. It’s an action film directed by Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Sin City) and produced by James Cameron, who also co-wrote the screenplay. She’s also set to star in Syfy’s upcoming thriller, Deadly Class.