To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before knows where the effervescence of a great romcom lies

This sweet teen movie is clichéd, over-engineered and absolutely perfect. 

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Lara Jean Song Covey is a normal teenager: a 16-year-old Korean-American just starting her junior year of high school. She loves reading romance novels and fantasising about her older sister’s boyfriend, Josh. But, as with many teenagers, there’s no actual dating in her life: instead, her evenings are spent watching The Golden Girls on the couch with her little sister, Kitty. Until one day, Kitty finds a box of unsent love letters Lara Jean has written to her childhood crushes over the years – including to Josh – and posts them.

This is the perfectly over-engineered premise of sweet teen romcom To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on a young adult novel of the same name by Jenny Han. And it gets better: Lara Jean throws Josh off the scent by embarking on a fake relationship with another letter recipient, her childhood friend Peter Kavinksy, who hopes the fauxmance will make his ex-girlfriend jealous. It’s a tale as old as cinema: two cute kids who refuse to acknowledge each other’s burgeoning feelings, an elaborate scheme that forces them to spend plenty of time alone together, and an alarming amount of plot-driven miscommunication.

It’s wonderful cliché that works. Lana Condor has quiet but compelling charisma as Lara Jean, while Noah Centineo brings puppyish, long-eyelashed charm to Peter, the popular, but kind, all-American jock. The script understands exactly where the effervescence of a great romcom lies – in the arguments over the finer details of their relationship contract; in his hand in her jean back pocket; in the 30 seconds of flirtatious bargaining at the front door of a house party; and, finally, in the hot tub kiss. Perfection.

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's deputy culture editor.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Will Labour split?