From Page to Screen: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
This is a series I’ve been wanting to do for a while now – a comparison between a book and its movie. I’m going to compare the two together, to highlight what remains the same and what differs from the source material and let you know what I did and didn’t like about those changes, and then I’ll let you know whether I preferred the book or the film. It’s important to remember that while the book is the source material, the movie is an adaptation and doesn’t necessarily have to remain the same as the book. There could be a number of reasons for this, from budget to time constraints to actor capabilities. Certain things in a book might not translate well on screen.
Movie adaptations are becoming increasingly popular and there are so many that I have planned for this series, but what better way to kick it off than one of the hottest movies to hit this summer – To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. My last post was a review of the book, so if you haven’t read it yet then you can find it here.
Warning: this will contain spoilers.
Plot: what if all the crushes you ever had found out about how you felt about them… all at once? Lara Jean Covey’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control when love letters for every boy she’s ever loved – five in all – are mysteriously mailed out.
As far as book to screen adaptations go this one was extremely true to the source material. There were very few changes, and all the changes they did make were very minor. I made it quite clear in my review of the book how much I disliked it. It’s up there with one of the worst books I’ve read this year. However, while I didn’t get on with the book, I did absolutely Love this film. Yes, love with a capital L!
Let me tell you why…
The characters – or, more accurately, the actors – made this film. The casting was perfect. I want to make a specific mention of Lana Condor, the actress who played Lara Jean, because she was the one who breathed life into an otherwise dull, lifeless character. The personality I thought was lacking in the book was delivered tenfold in the movie. I actually went back to the beginning of the book once I was done with the film just to see whether I had, in fact, missed the reason why pretty much everyone loved the book, but I couldn’t find it the second time around either; Lara Jean continued to frustrate me. Lana Condor did an amazing job at bringing her to life – I really believed every single part of her characterisation.
The other actor I think deserves a special mention is Anna Cathcart who played Lara Jean’s little sister, Kitty. In the books, Kitty is a nine-year-old little brat, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because kids are immature but that is unless you’re Lara Jean, because (and if you haven’t read the book or seen the film and don’t want spoilers then now is the time to stop reading) Kitty is the one responsible for sending out Lara Jean’s letters in an act of revenge for almost outing Kitty’s crush on Josh to Josh. In the movies, Kitty is still the one to send the love letters but for an entirely different reason: she wanted Lara Jean to live life, to feel and experience love in all its messy and wonderful glory. The way Kitty put it is that Lara Jean had a better chance if she sent out all five than if she had only sent out the one letter. I loved these changes to her characterisation. Her reasoning for sending the letters was sweet and heartfelt and you could clearly tell she loves her sister. They aged Kitty up to about eleven which I think made a huge difference. My first reaction to when it was revealed in the books why Kitty had done it was thank god I don’t have a younger sister because, had it happened to me, I would have killed her, but when it was revealed in the movie I couldn’t help but think how sweet it was, albeit inappropriate because, let’s face it, it was still a breach of privacy no matter how you look at it.
One change in the film I thought was quite drastic was the characterisation of Josh. For him being the main motivation for Lara Jean to enter into the fake relationship with Peter, there was a surprising lack of screen time for him. The film was more of a Lara Jean and Peter show with a cameo from Josh, rather than the love triangle Lara Jean finds herself in over her feelings for Josh, the return of her feelings for Peter, and the fact that Josh is Margot’s ex-boyfriend. It’s actually more of a love square than a triangle but you get what I mean. I was torn between whether I liked Josh or not in the book. I did feel for him because he lost his girlfriend and his friend overnight without so much as an explanation. In the movie, he loses all likability for me, which I can’t help but blame on the script and the direction. He’s so much more of a bigger character in the book and his relationship with the Covey’s is explained better. In the movie, all you get is his introduction in the beginning as Margot’s boyfriend, then as soon as she breaks it off with him to move to Scotland, he’s pretty much forgotten about, aside from the occasional line here and there to remind us they’ve paid the actor. They tried to use his character for conflict when Josh and Peter exchange words in front of Lara Jean and Margot but it definitely doesn’t have, to me, as big of an impact as it does in the books. Overall, the changes to his character were probably my least favourite, which is a shame because all the other actors had their chance to shine whereas he didn’t.
The rest of the characters were pretty true to form, although there some minor changes again. For instance, Lara Jean’s dad’s reactions to things changed, and he and Lara Jean end up having such a sweet, melt your heart moment in the film that I would have loved to have seen in the book. In all honesty, I kind of hated Lara Jean’s dad in the book. I know I said it before but I will say it again – the actors made this movie. Without them, these characters would not have been anything more than one dimensional. Even the characters you love to hate were made better because of their actors. Movie adaptations can be hit or miss when it comes to characters, they either get completely destroyed or you fall in love with them all over again. As I wasn’t too impressed with the characters from the book, the characters in the film were definitely a hit from me!
The plot is pretty consistent from the book to the movie. All the main elements – Margot moving halfway across the world, Lara Jean having a crush on Josh, Lara Jean’s letters getting sent out, developing a fake relationship with Peter, and eventually falling in love with Peter – all remain the same.
There are certain things that are taken from the sequel book, PS. I Still Love You, which I wasn’t aware of until I did a bit of research for this post. For instance, Lara Jean finding out the entire class on the ski trip thinking she and Peter had sex in the hot tub is borrowed from the second book. Having not read the second book of the series yet, I can’t really say what effect this is going to have if a sequel to the film is released because I’m not sure how big of a part it plays in the book (if you’ve read it then maybe you can let me know), but for the purpose of the film, I think it makes sense. They added it for a bit of conflict, but you can kind of see it coming together because it’s teased throughout the film about how much Gen dislikes Lara Jean and Peter being together. I expected there to be something. I think it worked quite well and I found it believable in terms of the context of the film, you kind of expect Peter to be that guy and tell everyone that he and Lara Jean did it in the hot tub so it makes it all the more sweeter when you find out Peter is not that guy.
The ending does change somewhat as well. Lara Jean comes to the realisation that she has fallen in love with Peter and begins, in typical Lara Jean fashion, to write him a letter, the contents of which you don’t find out. In the movie, it ends with Lara Jean walking up to Peter on the school field, and she starts to read him her letter. This is one perfect example of how movies do need to change certain aspects of a book because, had the movie ended the same way as the book, it wouldn’t have made for a satisfying ending, especially if you were watching the movie without having read the book. Whereas as readers, we’re used to our books ending on cliffhangers, with authors teasing us the possibility of a sequel, but we can’t expect their entire audience to be people who have read the book.
Netflix movies are, on average, shorter than a movie up on the big screen. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before has a run time of 99 minutes. You don’t even notice that it’s an hour and a half long because it goes by pretty quickly. It can be quite common for certain movies to drag on, to have scenes that feel never ending, but the movie doesn’t have that. It’s pacing is very well done, and it flows from scene to scene easily. The only issue I would say, if I wanted to give it a fully rounded review, is the movie tried to cram as much of the book as it could, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but some of the scenes were there and gone quicker than I would have liked, but the overall pacing was pretty good.
OVERALL – BOOK OR MOVIE?
While I’m not a romcom fan – or anything where romance is the main genre – kind of girl (I’d rather watch the MCU movies over romance any day), I have to admit I love the film (as if you didn’t already know). I didn’t go into it expecting it to be the kind of amazing where I need to shout it from the rooftops and interrupt everyone else’s lives to tell them that they need to watch it. It was cute and heartfelt. It was relatable for everyone and anyone who has ever been in love during high school. The acting was superb. The characterisations were wonderfully surprising. They felt less like characters and more like real people, which really helped to tell this story beautifully. I cannot praise the actors enough for their portrayals.
The plot, which I found interesting, translated much better on screen than on paper. Usually I’m of the opinion that I prefer reading because I get a better idea of character motivation and of their innermost thoughts and feelings in a more intimate way than I would from watching them on screen (let’s see how long that lasts with this From Page to Screen series!), but this movie has completely flipped that on the head for me. As I mentioned in my review of the book, the characters of Jenny Han’s book lacked personality and depth, but I completely, one hundred percent, believed the reactions of the characters in the movie. I believed how distraught Lara Jean was over finding out her letters were missing. I believed how much she was freaking out when she found out the boys had received her letters. I believed how much Lara Jean missed her sister.
If you’re a fan of romance and comedy and coming-of-age teen angst movies then this will be right up your street. If you’re a fan of the book, and even if you’re not a fan of the book, if you like cutesy fluff then you’ll definitely want to watch this because it’s packed with it.
Overall, it was a cute, easy, feel good watch that I really enjoyed. I definitely have to choose the movie over the book.
What did you think of the movie? Did you prefer the book or the movie? And what did you think about this series – did you like it and want to see more of it? If you have any book/movie suggestions then please let me know!