'To All The Boys': why adults are obsessed with Netflix's teen romcom

Millions of grown-ups have been madly tweeting about 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before' since its release last month. Here's what all the fuss is about

16 September 2018 - 00:00
Noah Centineo as Peter and Lana Condor as Lara Jean in 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before'.
Noah Centineo as Peter and Lana Condor as Lara Jean in 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before'.
Image: Supplied

Why are so many adults obsessed with the love lives of a couple of teenagers? I'm not talking about parents with teenage kids - that's an entirely different story. I'm talking about the millions of grown-ups on the internet who have been madly tweeting and writing about Netflix's latest hit film, To All the Boys I've Loved Before, since its release last month.

The adults behind the brilliant tweets referencing the title (search "to all the boys" on Twitter and prepare to be entertained), are the same ones who are shamelessly thirsting over its male lead, Peter Kavinsky (played by Noah Centineo). There's already a sequel in the works.

It was the internet that forced me to watch the youthful romcom, based on the young adult novel by Jenny Han. I'd never heard of it (and still haven't read it, so this is the only reference to the book you'll find in the review) but everyone was going so wild over it that FOMO took over and I just had to see it.

So, is it any good? You bet.

But let's rewind a bit and talk about the plot. Lara Jean Covey (played by Lana Condor) is the 16-year-old middle child of a widowed gynaecologist dad (Aidan from Sex and the City, you guys!) who is raising three daughters on his own. When Lara Jean's older sister Margot (Janel Parrish) goes off to university in Scotland (the Coveys live in the US), she has to fraternise with the youngest, the charmingly precocious Kitty (Anna Cathcart).

One evening Kitty gets tired of hanging out with her big sister, telling Lara Jean: "I'm 11 and I had to cancel plans to hang out with you."

She decides Lara Jean needs to spice up her life. So what does she do? She secretly mails the love letters Lara Jean has written to five boys she's loved before, letters that were never intended to be sent. Two of those boys are schoolmates of Lara Jean's, while the third is her sister Margot's sweet but dull, recently dumped boyfriend, Josh. Yikes. (The other two guys are insignificant to the plot.)

Enter Peter. Tall and gorgeous, he's the most popular guy in school and, it eventually turns out, is a sweetheart beneath his jock persona. Yep, you've never heard this before. Peter is one of the recipients of Lara Jean's letters and after he confronts Lara Jean about it, they decide to enter into a fake relationship. Peter wants to make his popular mean girl ex (of course) Gen, jealous, while Lara Jean wants to convince Josh that she couldn't possibly be interested in him because she has a boyfriend, see?

WATCH | The trailer for To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Peter is in the lacrosse team and he's never seen Sixteen Candles (her favourite film). Lara Jean is an awkwardly cynical nerd who has never seen Fight Club (his favourite film). And together they make a cute fake couple, but will they fall in love for realsies (isn't that what the kids say?) or will Josh and/or Gen come between them? The suspense, the drama.

Look, this isn't a Cormac McCarthy adaptation, so to expect depth, complexity and originality would be silly. Is it cheesy? Yes, but not enough to clog up your arteries.

Most of the roles are perfectly cast: Condor as Lara Jean never overacts - but that doesn't mean she's wooden a la Kristen Stewart in that other silver screen documentation of teenage love lives, the Twilight saga. Instead, she's reminiscent of a young, female Vince Vaughn: subtle, but believable.

Centineo as Peter is like a 2018 version of Ansel Elgort in that other YA novel-turned-film about teenagers in love that adults were swooning over, The Fault In Our Stars. He's charismatic, cool, sweet but still has a pinch of bad boy in him.

But the real star of the film is Cathcart as Kitty. She's so captivating and spirited, you just want to put her in your pocket and hang out with her - that's if she'll let you.

She has some of the best exchanges in the film, such as when her dad asks why Lara Jean is in a bad mood.

"Moon day," she casually says. Her dad responds: "Menstruation is science, nothing to do with the moon."

Kitty counters: "Says you, doctor man. But the goddess within says it's a sacred rhythm that represents the deepest celebration of womanhood."

It's so easy to see why To All the Boys I've Loved Before has been such a hit. It's adorable, it's charming, it's funny and it doesn't take itself too seriously. No wonder all those adults - what with their cynicism, bitterness and their cold, cold hearts - love it. It's a reminder of those uncomplicated, heady days of first love.

As long as we don't turn into those weird moms who had Twilight book clubs and nearly fainted when they saw Bella and Edward on Oprah, we're still good.