Blake Lively and Justin Baldoni Share Emotional First Look
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Blake Lively and Justin Baldoni Share Emotional First Look

'It Ends with Us' is the first Colleen Hoover book adaptation, in theaters Aug. 9

Blake Lively is at the center of an emotive new romantic drama based on one of author Colleen Hoover's popular novels.

Lively stars as Lily Bloom in It Ends with Us, an adaptation of Hoover's 2016 book that went so viral on TikTok that it inspired a bestselling sequel in 2022.

"Lily resonated with an enormous amount of people, as the success of the book made clear," Lively, 36, tells PEOPLE. "Stepping into a character who’s had such a meaningful impact is an honor to take on."

"I loved Lily," she adds. "And I hope that affection is felt by those who care about her like I do, and also those who are coming to know her for the first time in this film.”

Starring alongside Lively, as the affable neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid, is Justin Baldoni, who also directed the film.

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Lily, a woman setting out to establish her own business in Boston, has a fortuitous encounter with Ryle, getting carried away into an intense relationship.

But, a synopsis hints, "as the two fall deeply in love, Lily begins to see sides of Ryle that remind her of her parents’ relationship" and the traumatic upbringing she surmounted.

Atlas Corrigan, Lily's first passion, is portrayed by actor Brandon Sklenar. When Atlas "suddenly reenters her life, her relationship with Ryle is upended, and Lily realizes she must learn to rely on her own strength to make an impossible choice for her future," the synopsis adds.

"The movie experience adds another layer to the connection readers already have with the characters," she says. "The power of visual narrative is undeniable, and it can provoke even stronger sentiments and empathy from the audience by bringing a sense of immediacy and intensity to the tale. I certainly felt so much while viewing the adaptation."

Baldoni, 40, has been working on the project for nearly five years, presently placing the final details on it before the August debut. He tells PEOPLE the film "really comes from the heart and from the depth of my soul."

Through managing his complicated role as Ryle, Baldoni says he learned more about himself in the process. "I had to dig up a lot of stuff, and I found parts of me that I didn't know existed," he says.

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"In some sense, portraying Ryle was actually very therapeutic to me as Justin. There was aspects of me as Justin that I thought that I had maybe worked on and healed that I realized I hadn't," says Baldoni, who previously starred on Jane the Virgin and directed the 2019 film Five Feet Apart.

He adds, "Getting to know this character and his depth and his love and his joy and his darkness, I was actually able to work on those parts of myself."

As for Lively as Lily, Baldoni characterizes her as "strong, funny and intelligent — all the things you want from female heroine." He adds of the actress, "There wasn't a part of this production that she didn't affect and have influence on. And everything she placed her hands on and her intellect to, she made better."

The cast of It Ends with Us, written for the screen by Christy Hall, also includes Jenny Slate as Ryle's sister Allysa, Hasan Minhaj as Allysa's spouse Marshall, and Amy Morton as Lily's mother Jenny.
Author Hoover says Baldoni and the complete cast and production "maintained the essence of this book in a delicate and beautiful way."

"The readers are the reason this book has been adapted, and I appreciate how much Justin wants to make sure those readers get the movie they deserve," says Hoover. "I’m confident they’ll be happy with what has been created."

It Ends with Us is in theaters Aug. 9.