studying the colour palette of “to all the boys i’ve loved before”

Let’s talk about the best romantic comedy of the decade!

I realize that the hype surrounding this film has died down since it released a month ago, but I still feel like I want to eat this movie. I loved everything about it, from the costumes to the cinematography to Lara Jean (Lana Condor)’s facial expressions. I think it’s a bit of a rarity as far as high school rom-coms go – like how it celebrates Lara Jean’s Korean heritage, and how Lara Jean and Peter have a type of emotionally healthy and healing relationship that you don’t often see in these types of movies.

I also love the film’s colour palette: the whole thing is shot with a filter that brings out saturated pinks and blues, as if the story is set in a candy store. Even the shadows are teal. While these sugary colours parallel the sweetness of the story and the whimsicality of Lara Jean and her narration, they also provide a bit of a throwback to the classic 80’s films that Lara Jean loves and that inspired so much of the story.

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From the very first frames of the movie, the colours are bright, with pink and blue as the most common colours we see. Aside from the red gown she wears in the fantastical opening scene, very few of Lara Jean’s outfits don’t have a pop of pink, blue, or yellow. I think that to some degree, these colours represent Lara Jean and her influence on the world around her. On her first day of school, her outfit is noticeably absent of these colours: an indication of her invisibility, or at least the invisibility she thinks she is subject to.

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On the day her letters get out, though, her gym tee is bright yellow against a teal running track, while Peter and Josh – the boys she wrote letters to – are in teal. Now that both of them realize how she feels about them, they are suddenly coloured in the hues that Lara Jean loves. It’s notable that in Peter’s introductory scene – just as we’re learning that Lara Jean wrote him a letter – his shirt is dark teal… as if she already has an influence over him.

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There are also occasional pops of red throughout the film: Lucas’ shoes, Josh’s shirts, Lara Jean’s car, and the skirt she wears when she races home after the letters get out. What these things have in common is that they’re things that frighten Lara Jean – Josh and Lucas are unattainable loves, the letters getting out is obviously terrifying, and a hatred of driving is a hallmark of her character.

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One of the movie’s most climactic scenes occurs when Peter and Josh fight over Lara Jean in her driveway. It’s also in this moment that Lara Jean’s worst fear comes true: her sister Margot finds about Lara Jean’s true feelings for Josh. Altogether, it’s when things for Lara Jean hit rock bottom, and it’s significant that everything in the scene is lit by red Christmas lights. Even Lara Jean’s face is framed with this light on either side, highlighting her fear and discomfort.

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In the movie’s final moments, when Lara Jean goes to tell Peter how she feels about him, her fear is represented by her bright red coat – but instead of being glazed in red this time, she’s surrounded by blue and green, bright colours that add an element of hopefulness to the movie’s end. And, of course, Peter’s hoodie in the final scene is dark teal: a reflection of their first moment on the same lacrosse pitch where they officially began their relationship, when Lara Jean wore pink and Peter wore blue – as if representing their respective genders and emphasizing the classic boy-meets-girl thing going on. Notice the similarities:

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I love when films that could have been visually boring give us a little something extra in the costumes or cinematography to chew on. Now enjoy these tweets about Peter Kavinsky, who really is such an excellent character and boyfriend that I could write an entire blog post about him, probably.

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