On Feb. 12, Netflix released the highly anticipated sequel to 2018’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, fittingly titled To All the Boys 2: P.S. I Still Love You. It was truly the perfect movie for Valentine’s Day, filled with enough love and sweetness to charm audiences everywhere.
The film picks up not long after the events of the first movie with Lara Jean and Peter enjoying life together as a couple. Their relationship is forged with heart-warming cuteness and just the right touch of awkwardness that seems to characterize all high school romances. However, trouble soon comes to paradise in the form of John McClaren, a recipient of one of Lara Jean’s love letters. She reluctantly grows feelings for him as the two spend time together volunteering, causing understandable tension in her relationship with Peter. There are fights and backstabbing, uncertainty and insecurity, but all eventually works itself out in the end in true romantic-comedy fashion, picture-perfect kiss and all.
I didn’t have many expectations going into this film. I enjoyed the first movie, but I never thought much of it until commentary started coming out about this second installment. The Internet had seemingly relinquished its love for Noah Centineo’s Peter, flocking to Jordan Fisher’s John as the new boyfriend of choice for Lara Jean. Many deemed John the superior love interest, so much so that I half-expected to fall in love with him myself before watching the movie.
But having seen the film now, I struggle to share the Internet’s sentiments.
Don’t get me wrong; John McClaren is a great character with unwavering kindness and a special sort of gentleness that is hard to find in many male characters. He never loses his patience or becomes bitter, maintaining his inherent goodness to the very end. The problem with John is that he is incapable of living life outside of the 6th grade. Every conversation he has with Lara Jean seemingly begins with “Remember that time in 6th grade…” or “Remember when…” Now, there’s nothing wrong with reminiscing every once in a while, but having it be the basis of John’s entire character makes him seem stuck in the past and, dare I say, obsessive.
Granted, his younger years are where his connection with Lara Jean began, but both John and Lara Jean are in their late teens by now, far removed from the world of 6th grade. Both have some growing up to do, and constantly living in the past is no way to move forward. Also, if a person can vividly remember the exact flavor of cupcake you once brought to a party over five years ago, you should be locking your door, not falling in love with them.
This is not to say that Peter is perfect by any means, either. He is criminally bad at communication, so much so that it creates problems where there were none to begin with in terms of his relationship with Lara Jean. She already feels insecure given that he is her first real boyfriend, so his lack of transparency with her invites tension. Despite this, he sees Lara Jean as she is now rather than an idealized version of her in the past. He is willing to work through the difficulties of their relationship, growing with Lara Jean as they both become well-rounded individuals. It is for those reasons that having Peter and Lara Jean back together in the end felt like the right choice for the story.
Beyond romance, the film is also filled with messages that bring life to the storyline outside the traditional confines of teen dramas. There is commentary about heritage, clinging to family, broken friendships, moving on and knowing one’s self. This movie understands that it is a romantic comedy, but it doesn’t sacrifice meaningfulness in any aspect for the sake of adhering to that genre. It’s everything you expect out of a love story, but it offers so much more along the way. It is both a light and heavy film, one that you would happily watch again, but not before a little bit of time has passed for you to take it all in.
There’s no doubt Netflix has done well with this second film in the To All the Boys franchise, continuing with a storyline that doesn’t substitute style for substance. The characters are on a grand trajectory toward satisfying finality, and I can’t wait to see where the upcoming third film takes Lara Jean and Peter next.