XO, Kitty, which premiered as a Netflix series this week, is a charming and rollicking dramedy about cross-cultural romance. It’s a worthy spinoff of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which debuted in 2018 to popular and critical acclaim. To All the Boys, it should be remembered, introduced viewers to the romantic dalliances of Lara Jean Covey, played by Lana Condor. In XO, Kitty, we are privy the coming-of-age vicissitudes of Lara’s younger sister, Kitty Covey, played with equal verve by Anna Cathcart.
Kitty, an American high-school student in the throes of puppy love, decides on a whim to enroll in a prestigious Korean boarding school, ostensibly to follow in the footsteps of her late mother, who’d been a student there in the 1990s. (The school happens to be named the Korean Independent School of Seoul, whose acronym, KISS, hints at what awaits her.) But Kitty has other motivations: she wants to spend time with Dae, with whom she’s had a virtual “cellphone relationship” ever since meeting him on a trip to Seoul several years earlier.
Dae, played by Choi Min-young, turns out to be a philanderer, and Kitty is momentarily devastated at discovering he’s been romantically entangled with Yuri (Gia Kim), whose parents include a wealthy hotel tycoon and the headmaster of KISS. (In real life, Gia Kim is the brother of Sang Heon Lee, who plays Min Ho in the fictional series.)
The plot thickens. It turns out that Yuri is only dating Dae as a ruse to draw attention away from her same-sex romance with another girl, Juliana, played by Regan Aliyah. Despite his herculean efforts to prove his commitment to Kitty, Dae never seems to make his case without things inevitably going wrong. Not to say that Kitty is an innocent bystander to these hormone-charged developments: she has her own crushes and dalliances, making XO, Kitty one of the most delightful and goofy rom-com-dramedies to come down Cupid’s highway this year.
It’s sheer fun to follow Anna Cathcart as she manipulates her way through Seoul’s thriving Koreapop scene with just the right amount of grit and determination. She’s initially portrayed as a clumsy “innocent abroad,” which she plays convincingly in a series of hilarious scenes. Wielding a huge yellow suitcase, she meets the other protagonists via a series of farcical and “coincidental” mishaps: missing a bus upon arrival, getting hit by Yuri’s car, crashing into a dessert table at KISS’s welcome party.
For his part, Dae presents himself as both naïve and sophisticated, innocent and cunning—contradictory qualities that a lesser talent might have trouble navigating. And Yuri comes across with just the right amount of stuck-up arrogance to mark her as the spoiled child of privilege she is.
Despite the fact that the episodes in the 10-part XO, Kitty series have a variety of directors and writers attached to them, there is a remarkable continuity in adhering to the show’s basic comedic premise: the ageless story of young men and women in and out of love and lust. The directors include Jennifer Arnold (episodes 1, 2, 5, 6), Jeff Chan (episodes 3,4), Pamela Romanowsky (episodes 7, 8), and Katrina Medina Mora (episodes 9, 10), all of whom have made XO, Kitty a thoroughly enjoyable addition to this season’s Netflix offerings. But XO, Kitty is not neglectful of serious themes that are meaningful to many of today’s teenagers: the search for identity, bonding with a parent who has died, navigating the often-incomprehensible world of adult ambition and angst.
Grade : A
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Here’s the trailer of the series.