I’m back with another edition of ‘Page to Screen’ and today we’re looking at the new Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Having just recently finished the series for the first time, I was very eagerly awaiting this release. There are definitely some changes but was I disappointed? That would be a no.
TATBILB centres around sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Covey. For every intense crush she experiences, LJ writes a highly personal love letter which she keeps locked away inside a hat box in her closet. One day, all five letters are mysteriously sent out, leaving LJ in an awkward position as one of the boys happens to be her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. In order to convince Josh she’s moved on, LJ makes a deal with Peter, another of her letter receivers. By them pretending to be in a relationship, LJ can throw Josh off the scent and Peter can make his controlling ex, Genevieve, jealous.
What’s Different? (Beware – Book Spoilers!)
- The End: One of the biggest changes from the book here is that the last third of the movie meshes in a few elements from book two in the series, PS. I Still Love You. This includes the drama resulting from a dodgy hot tub video taken at ski camp but also the ending of the film. If you’ve read the first book, you’d know that its ending is quite abrupt and really forces you to read on to find a happy ending. The movie, thank god, doesn’t do this and in true rom-com fashion ends with the reunion that kicks of LJ and Peter’s relationship in book two. I was very much on board with this change. The only thing I wish had been included was Lara Jean’s reconciliation letter to Peter which is pretty dang sweet. Why you gotta deprive me of my aww moment Netflix people?
- Less Filler: Due to time constraints a lot of the activities that Peter and LJ do together during the novel, like baking and antiquing, which help cement their bond have been cut, but this is easily forgiven. I mean, it’s only a 1 ½ hr or so movie. However, we do get to see them watching movies together and going to parties. There’s also a lovely conversation regarding the death of LJ’s mum and Peter’s father walking out on him which lays some huge groundwork for their changed feelings.
- Kitty’s Motivations: In the novel, Kitty spitefully sends out LJ’s letters after a heated argument. Here, she mails them with more positive intentions, in the hopes it’ll help her sister connect with someone. This was another change I really loved and it was nice to see Kitty acting with more pure intentions which seemed much more in tune with her ‘I know what’s best’ kind of personality.
- LJ’s reaction: Unlike in the book, LJ has a much stronger reaction than a mere shrug to finding out Kitty sent her letters. It’s more realistic but still manages to remain sisterly and amusing.
- Josh x LJ: In the novel, there’s a love triangle between LJ, Peter and Josh in that LJ’s letter pushes Josh to tell her that he’s previously had feelings for her as well. This creates a lot of confusion for LJ as she’s unsure if she still likes Josh but at the same time, she has to consider the fact that he’s her sister’s ex. The focus in the movie is much more on Peter and LJ’s relationship, and in a healthier approach, Josh simply accepts it when LJ tells him that she’s over him. No awkwardness and no messy kiss that causes major problems between LJ and Margo.
- The Cast: Whoever did the casting for this movie was spot on and in my opinion, each of the actors fit their roles perfectly. Lana simply is Lara Jean; she plays her with the perfect combination of sweetness, romanticism, strength, and vulnerability – exactly how I imagined the character to be. Likewise, Noah does a great job in capturing Peter’s cockiness and charm while still doing justice to his softer side. The two have good chemistry and watching them interact with one another on screen is very enjoyable, especially when they’re taking photos of each other with silly faces. I also have to give points to Anna Cathcart as Kitty (straight off the page with all the necessary sass) and Madeline Arthur as Chris.
- Hallucinations: One of the things I wasn’t such a fan of was the film’s approach of occasionally having Josh, and at one point Peter, talking to LJ as almost hallucinations to help her sort through her feelings. Yes, LJ is a bit dramatic at times, but I felt like this inclusion was perhaps a bit odd and silly. It also just randomly stops out of nowhere making me wonder why they bothered with it at all.
- Slow Start: The movie takes a few minutes to get into the swing of things and find its groove. For those of us who know the story and characters, this is fine, but for others who don’t, it may be a bit slower to get into the feel of things.
- Comedy?: TATBILB is marketed as a rom-com and while I do agree with this, it’s more of a high school coming of age, romance film than a comedy. Think John Hughes (Sixteen Candles is actually referenced in the film). Sure, there are a few amusing moments but it’s not something you’ll burst out laughing at, as infectious as Lara Condor is as LJ.
- Representation: YAAAAS an Asian female lead in an American Romantic Comedy. WOOO!
AS AN ADAPTATION: Pretty good! Changes are for valid reasons and mostly good deviations.
AS A FILM: The adaptation of ATBILB has the charm and adorableness of the novel. If you’re looking for something short, fun, breezy and sweet, this is a great choice. 7/10
You can find my review of the book here.