To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Year: 2018
Directed by: Susan Johnson
Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish

Written by Abbie Eales

I used to hate rom-coms as a teenager. The trite categorisation of all human life into tribes; ‘the jock’, ‘the nerd’ etc. drove me mad. John Hughes fabulous 1985 hit The Breakfast Club was an incredible teen film and perfectly of it’s time, but it’s many,  many imitators sucked, with the same formula  becoming very tiresome over the last 30 years.  Girls only got the guy after they made themselves pretty and men with feelings were portrayed as weak and needy. Thankfully that tired, old, formula of ‘pretty white girl falls for pretty white boy, boy is unattainable, girl gets makeover’ is long dead and instead we have charming gems like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Now, yes, all the characters in Susan Johnson’s film ARE pretty. And yes, they do all live in beautiful houses and live lives where money appears to be no object, but we do at least have a slight move to a more nuanced and realistic view of the world and individuality.

Based on Jenny Han’s successful young adult romantic novel, Sofia Alvarez and Susan Johnson bring a wonderfully female-centric and fun view of the life of a teenage girl to the screen.

16 year old Lara-Jean Song Covey (a thoroughly relatable performance by Lana Condor) is a girl who has retreated into a world of fantasy, a world shaped by her love of romance novels. Sharing her house with her two sisters and her gynaecologist father, she’d rather be at home fantasising about a life should could have than be out living it. Her romantic fantasies get transferred to paper as she tries to exorcise her feelings for her various crushes by writing them intense love letters, which she keeps hidden in a box given to her by her late mother. Following her elder sister Margot’s (a somewhat miscast Janel Parrish- I don’t buy her as a teenager for one second) departure to College in Scotland the five intense letters find their way to the objects of Lara-Jean’s affection, including to Margot’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. However where in traditional rom-com land a convoluted plot about girls falling out, boys getting the girl and some kind of final dance happening, instead (without giving too much away) we are given a really sweet love story about complicated characters.

There are no ‘jocks’ or ‘nerds’ in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Sure, some characters play sport and some love fashion, but this is a slightly more rounded view of the world without ‘good’ or ‘bad’ people, just human beings making sometimes ill-thought-through decisions.

Lara-Jean’s Korean heritage is not something which defines her character. There are references to kombucha and Korean yoghurt drinks (good old Yakult) but it’s not ever painted as an issue. She just IS half-Korean.

Similarly letter-recipient Peter Kavinsky (the charming Noah Centineo) plays sports, but he’s not just a jock. He’s far more layered, which makes for a far more interesting story.

A third wheel appears in the love story: social media. Lara-Jean begins to replace one fantasy land with another as she starts to play out an alternate fake life online. The use of social media is well played throughout and manages not to feel clumsy and an integral part of the plot.

Despite the charm and likeability of Peter Kavinsky this is an assuredly female-centric story. We follow Lara-Jean’s trials and tribulations as she begins to work out who she is.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is everything you’d hope for in a teen rom-com in 2018. It’s fun, comforting and will give you a warm fuzzy feeling. It’s the teen film John Hughes would have made, had he been making films today.

Abbie’s Rating:

4

 

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Reel Women: August UK Releases

Written by Elena Morgan

Welcome back to Reel Women, a monthly feature where we highlight the films being released in the UK that are written and/or directed by women. What’s the perfect way to spend this ridiculously hot British summer we’re having? Spending time in an airconditioned cinema watching some films made by women of course! This August there’s something for everyone with documentaries, rom-coms and a couple of YA adaptations, proving that that genre is still here.

3 August

Damascus Cover
Directed by: Daniel Zelik Berk
Written by: Daniel Zelik Berk and Samantha Newton

A spy (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) struggles on an undercover mission in Syria when he falls in love.This is Samantha Newton’s first feature length writing credit. Trances, the short film she wrote, was shown at Berlinale in 2008.

Like Father
Directed by: Lauren Miller Rogen
Written by: Lauren Miller Rogen

When workaholic Rachel (Kristen Bell) is left at the altar, she accidentally goes on her honeymoon with her overachieving father (Kelsey Grammer) who suddenly came back into her life.

Lauren Miller Rogen is an actress who has appeared in films like Superbad and 50/50. This is her feature length directing and writing debut.

10 August

Dog Days
Directed by: Ken Marino
Written by: Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama

A group of interconnected people are brought together by their lovable dogs.

Dog Days is Elissa Matsueda’s fourth feature film. Erica Oyama is an actress, producer and writer who’s previously written episodes of The Eric Andre Show, Fresh Off the Boat and Burning Love, which she received an Emmy nomination for in 2013.

The Darkest Minds
Directed by: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Written by: Chad Hodge

Based on the book of the same name by Alexandra Bracken, The Darkest Minds is about a group of teens with powers who fight back against the adults who fear them and want to control them.

This Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s first live-action film after previously directed Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kung Fu Panda 3.

17 August

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
Directed by: Susan Johnson
Written by: Sofia Alvarez

When Lara Jean (Lan Condor) gets a crush, the way she deals with it is to write the boy a love letter, but she never sends them. Then one day all her letters get sent out and they wreak havoc on her love life.

Susan Johnson’s is a producer and director, her previous film Carrie Pilby is currently on Netflix and is well worth a watch. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is Sofia Alvarez’s first film credit and has previously written episodes and worked as an executive story editor on the TV show Man Seeking Woman.

Distant Constellation
Directed by: Shevaun Mizrahi

A documentary about the inhabitants of a Turkish retirement home, telling anecdotes about their lives.

Distant Constellation is Shevaun Mizrahi first feature-length documentary, which she also edited, after previously working as a part of the camera and electrical department on multiple short films.

The Guardians
Directed by: Xavier Beauvois
Written by: Xavier Beauvois, Marie-Julie Maille and Frédérique Moreau

When war breaks out in France in 1915, the women are left behind to work on a family farm so that their loved ones will have something to come back to.

As well as writing The Guardians Marie-Julie Maille also edited it. She’s edited over a dozen short and feature-length films.

22 August

Load Wedding
Directed by: Nabeel Qureshi
Written By: Fizza Ali Meerza and Nabeel Qureshi

Load Wedding is a romantic social comedy starring Fahad Mustafa and Mehwish Hayat.

Fizza Ali Meerza also produced Load Wedding and it is her third produced screenplay.

The Spy Who Dumped Me
Directed by: Susanna Fogel
Written by: Susanna Fogel and David Iserson

Audrey (Mila Kunis) and her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) get caught up in an international conspiracy when they discover that Audrey’s ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux) is actually a spy.

Susanna Fogel is a writer, director and producer. The Spy Who Dumped Me is her second film.

24 August

One Note At A Time
Directed by: Renne Edwards

Documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and how musicians use music to try and piece themselves together.

One Note at a Time is Renee Edwards’ first feature-length documentary. She’s edited over twenty different films and TV shows including episodes of Dispatches and Panorama.


That’s 10 very different films released in the UK this month, both in cinemas and on Netflix, that are made by women. If you get the chance to see any of them, we’d love to hear what you think of them.

Fiona’s Review Round-Up: Films You May Have Missed This Year

Written by Fiona Underhill

Full disclosure: this is mostly a round-up of films I said I would review, but never got around to. So, I’m assuaging some of my guilt by giving a little summary and rating to help you decide what is worth catching up with from this year so far and what is best to avoid.

Directed by Women:

I have been making an effort this year to watch more films directed by women. By the end of the year, I will have seen at least 26 (the equivalent of one per fortnight) – yes, of course I could do better and I intend to improve on this next year, but it’s a start. Not all of them have been 2017 films, but many have. Here is a round-up of some of them.

US Netflix

(I saw all of these on Netflix in the US and at least some of them are available on streaming in the UK):

The Intervention (dir. Clea DuVall)

A fantastic ensemble cast are brought together in a sumptuous plantation home in Savannah for a weekend getaway. Things go awry when the group of friends decide to ‘intervene’ in one of the couples’ marriage. The cast includes DuVall, Natasha Lyonne, Melanie Lynskey, Ben Schwartz, Alia Shawkat and Cobie Smulders. 7.5/10

Carrie Pilby (dir. Susan Johnson)

Another fantastic central performance from Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl), as a supremely gifted young woman in New York City, as she struggles to negotiate the world of work and dating. 8/10

Sophie & The Rising Sun (dir. Maggie Greenwald)

A mysterious wounded Japanese gentleman washes up in South Carolina and causes a stir in the community, as America is being drawn into World War Two. He strikes up a romance with Sophie (a compelling performance from Julianne Nicholson of Masters of Sex). I was pleasantly surprised by this film, which backs up its beautiful setting and costumes with great acting and a compelling story. 8/10

The Levelling (dir. Hope Dickson Leach)

To be perfectly honest, this is the type of film I usually avoid, as I’m normally in the mood for escapism with a rom-com on a Friday night. Although this film had a great central performance from Ellie Kendrick, it was frankly, depressing as hell. 6/10

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The following films were all US theatrical releases in 2017
(some were very limited releases, however).

 

The Love Witch (dir. Anna Biller)

Probably the best looking film I’ve seen this year. I’m so in love with the production design of this film – the costumes, make-up and settings are an absolute feast for the eyes. Partly set in an amazing Gothic house in Eureka, California (a town I have visited) and featuring a fantastic central performance from the stunning Samantha Robinson (in what SHOULD be a star-making turn) – ‘The Love Witch’ is absolutely worth your time. 8.5/10

The Beguiled (dir. Sofia Coppola)

Released amid a storm of controversy surrounding the erasure of black characters from the narrative, ‘The Beguiled’ is adapted from a book and a 1971 Clint Eastwood film. I am not familiar with either the book or the ‘original’ film, so I had to judge this film on its own merits. I absolutely loved it. It is a hilarious black comedy (there was a LOT of laughter from the cinema audience when I saw it) with fantastic performances from Farrell, Dunst and Kidman. Highly recommended. 9/10

The Bad Batch (dir. Ana Lily Amirpour)

Another controversial one (again surrounding its treatment of black characters), this film is a violent dystopian road movie starring Suki Waterhouse and Jason Momoa (the first thing I’ve seen him in and I was impressed). The best scenes were the ones featuring Keanu Reeves, for my money. I was left disappointed and frankly, bored by this film over-all, however. 6/10

Beach Rats (dir. Eliza Hittman)

An absolutely compelling central performance from the young Harris Dickinson commands the screen throughout this coming-of-age tale of a Brooklyn teenager. Although it only really takes place across one summer, it is the tale of sexual awakening and transformation for this young man. I was astonished to discover afterwards that Dickinson is British and again, this should be a star-making turn. I highly recommend seeking this film out, however you can. 9.5/10

Home Again (dir. Hallie Meyers-Shyer)

I believe we have a full review coming on to the site for this, so I will be brief – this is a bizarre little tale of the 40 year old Reese Witherspoon ‘adopting’ three young struggling film makers and allowing them to stay at her house. She forms a special bond with one of them, while also trying to contend with her ex-husband Michael Sheen. Unfortunately this film wasn’t quite as much fun as all of that sounds. 6.5/10

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My full reviews are available on the site for the following 2017 films directed by women: Rough Night, Their Finest, Detroit, and Wonder Woman

And the rest (not directed by women):

All of these were 2017 US theatrical releases.

 

Your Name (dir. Makoto Shinkai)

It has just been announced that a live-action version of this stunning film is in the works, which has fans of this animated Japanese classic (yes, already) screaming “noooooo!” I think this is the only time I’ve welled up in a cinema not because of emotion, but because what I was seeing was so jaw-droppingly beautiful. It’s also very funny, in the cross-gender body swap tradition. Throw in meteors and time-travel and you have an astonishing film. You have probably lost your chance to see it on a big screen, but please catch up with it however you can. 9.5/10

Beatriz at Dinner (dir. Miguel Arteta)

Despite a very strong cast, with some of my favourite actors (Salma Hayek, John Lithgow and Chloe Sevigny), I found this film greatly disappointing. When her car breaks down, masseuse Beatriz becomes a dinner guest with a group of very rich white people. Unfortunately, there was no nuance to what could have been an interesting debate. Instead this film hits you over the head with heavy-handed messages. 5/10

The Little Hours (dir. Jeff Baena)

An absolutely hilarious little film set in an Italian convent in the Middle Ages, but with very modern sensibilities and language. Sounds bizarre, but it works. Starring Aubrey Plaza (also to be seen this year in Ingrid Goes West), John C Reilly, Jemima Kirke and real-life spouses Alison Brie and Dave Franco – this film is definitely worth seeking out if you can. 8.5/10

The House (dir. Andrew Jay Cohen)

I’m sure ‘The House’ will be rounded up with ‘Rough Night’ to show (along with Baywatch) what a disappointing summer it’s been for fairly big-name comedies. Hey – I thought this film starring Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Jason Mantzoukas was really funny. Not exactly memorable, but a fun and entertaining way to spend an evening. 7/10

Girls Trip (dir. Malcolm D Lee)

Much has been made of two very similar films coming out this summer and ‘Girls Trip’ triumphing over ‘Rough Night’ at the box office. Starring Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and break-out star Tiffany Haddish, this film perhaps goes even further to gross-out, be overtly sexual and outrageous with its language and actions. It is really fun and really funny and it should prove an important milestone for a film with a black female cast. 7.5/10

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