Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

So after you watch every single version of Jane Austen movies, what do you have to watch next?

Hmm…I don’t know!

That’s why I started this list, to have non-Austen films that Austen fans can enjoy.

So there are a lot of period dramas I plan on reviewing, but to start it off-I’m doing something a bit unexpected.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Laura Jean is is a romantic. She reads romances, watches romantic films and Rom-Coms-her favorite is Sixteen Candles-and she dreams about the beauty of love in her head.

She wishes she could be in a romance book or film.

When Laura Jean falls in love she writes love letters, but she never sends them. Whenever she falls for a guy she writes them a letter, addresses it, seals it, and stashes it in her closet. She has fallen in love with five guys, so far:

  • Kenny from camp
  • John Ambrose McClaren from Model U. N.
  • Peter Kavinsky in 7th Grade
  • Lucas after Homecoming
  • Josh Sanderson, best friend turned sister’s boyfriend

Ouch, that last one-yes, Laura was best friends with Josh, but then her sister and him started dating. Very awkward!

It is the start of junior year and Laura’s sister is heading off to college to Scotland. Laura is feeling a little lost as she is losing her other best friend and the one she has…well it is even more awkward now that he isn’t dating her sister than when he was.

School is okay, as Laura Jean isn’t the most popular girl in school but it never really mattered before, but now she feels lonely without her sister.

Everything is normal until one day Peter Kavinsky approaches her out of the blue stating that nothing will ever happen between them.

Huh?

Laura Jean is confused, until she realizes he has her letter!! Josh does too, so in order to dissuade him-and to keep more awkward conversations from happening between her and Josh and her sister-she kisses Peter and takes off.

At home she discovers that all the letters are gone! Kenny’s from camp is returned to her, as address is wrong (*phew*) but all the others were sent out and received.

Lucas approaches her and reveals to her that he is gay, and the two actually become friends, this continuing throughout the movie. Peter’s girlfriend, Genevieve, dumped him for a college guy, and in order to get her back-he approaches Laura Jean about pretending to be his new girlfriend, as him dating Laura Jean will piss her off. Genevieve and Laura Jean used to be friends, but back in seventh grade it ended. At a party, they were playing spin-the-bottle and it landed on Peter, Genevieve’s crush. (That kiss lead to the writing of Laura Jean’s letter).

Laura Jean isn’t interested, but then Peter points out that if they are “dating”, then Josh won’t believe the letter is how Laura Jean feels now-and no awkward conversations will have to be done with Josh or Margo. Laura Jean agrees after they come up with a series of rules.

The two start “dating” and really enjoying each other’s company. Laura Jean’s mother died when she was little and she grew up with only one parent and her sisters. Peter’s dad left him and started a new family, it being just his mom and brother. They bond over what that feels like and have conversations they would never have with anyone else.

Most of all they just have fun with each other.

And their plan is working. Genevieve hates the situation and her college guy is quickly dropped as she tries to break the two up. Everything is going great until Laura Jean falls in love with her fake boyfriend. Will everything turn out okay?

So not fun…

Let me say that I love, love loved this movie. I put it on as background noise while I was doing something else and I stopped working as I was sucked in and just could not stop watching. It made me laugh, aw, and I just all around enjoyed it.

I can’t stop watching!

Now I know you think this film has been done a thousand times, and yes the fake relationship has-but what makes this stand out is the character Laura Jean. She is relatable, realistic, and so much fun. She was smart, but at the same time didn’t know all the answers to everything. She loved romance in books and movies, but was afraid at real commitment-understandable as she had lost her mother and now her sister has “left her.”

I liked the fact that they came up with rules as I have always thought that if you were to do this in real life the first thing you would need is a set of rules and a strong backstory.

I also liked that they broke up for actual serious reasons. Often they have the couple break up over silly misunderstandings that would be easily solved if the two would just talk to each other. But the fact that this guy says that he is into you but constantly talking to his ex-girlfriend and spent the night in her room? Good for you Laura Jean-that’s a no.

So I know you are all wondering-why would a Jane Austen fan like it? Well there are a few reasons. First of all Laura Jean is sooo Catherine Morland-a girl who loves romance novels and finds herself in one?! Out of all the Austen heroines that’s the one that most kept popping in my mind. How Laura Jean imagines herself in romance novels-and being sweet and naive. 

The relationship between Laura and Peter is reminiscent of Catherine and Mr. Tilney, both couples having great banter with their love interests-laughing and joking around with each other.

Like I said above, Peter isn’t exactly Mr. Tilney, but they do share commonalities. Both care about their younger siblings a lot and have a strained relationship with their fathers. They also don’t always follow social norms but do what they want, and enjoy joking around.

Another thing that Austen fans will enjoy is the family relationships. In Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, the main Austen heroines didn’t have a lot of friends besides their own sisters. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth does have Charlotte Lucas, but just like how Laura Jean’s friend is practically non-existent in this film, the two don’t spend a lot of the book spending time together. Mostly, their best friends are their sisters (like Jane Austen’s sister was). In Pride and Prejudice, Jane goes away for a period of time to stay with relatives, and Elizabeth is very lonely with her gone-just how Laura Jean feels when Margo goes away for school. Speaking of P&P, Laura Jean’s little sister Kitty-she’s like a combo of Lydia and Kitty. Meddling, outspoken, more mature than her years in some aspects (but still a child in others).

Like Sense and Sensibility, we have an older, more sensible sister-Margo/Elinor; a romantic, reader, middle sister-Laura Jean/Marianne; and a spunky, does thing her own thing, younger sister-Kitty/Margaret. Like in S&S, The older siblings have a very close relationship, but both keep secrets from each other. But through all the ups and downs-secret holding and ultimately revealing the truth-the sisters are there for each other.

The other thing that Austen fans will love- is that letters play a crucial role in the film and in the plot. In Austen’s time, letters were extremely important-being the only way of communicating when apart, but often read out loud and like the TV of the day. In Austen’s books-letters play a very important role. The two most known of course are Darcy’s letter in Pride and Prejudice and Captain Wentworth’s letter in Persuasion. Like those novels-the letters Laura Jean writes to her love interests, start all the events in the film, but just like those two Austen men’s letters bring a romantic conclusion-the love notes Peter wrote her are what convince her of his love.

I recommend it for any Austen fan.

For more Young Adult/Teen works, go to Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers: Suitors and Sabotage

For more love letters, go to You Were Right, Let’s Get Married: Psycho (1960)

For more Austen film/TV show reviews, go to Mrs. Darcy Wants to Know the Truth!: Death Comes to Pemberley, Episode Three (2013)

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