Every once in a while, a romantic-comedy is released and restores a little bit of peace to the world. The rose-colored haze of epic loves and grand, romantic gestures seen on film is enough to make almost anyone forget the trivialities of real life for just an hour and a half and completely allow themselves to be swept away by the fairy-tale.
When To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before released back in 2018, it felt like an ample amount of people collectively got swept away by its fairy-tale. And we absolutely loved it! With the amount of success and adoration the first film received, it came with no surprise that the sequel was approved. After that epic declaration of love and the magical kiss on the lacrosse field, audiences sat impatiently to see what problems the next film would bring the shining, young couple.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020) takes place just after the ending of the first film, with Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) in a loving relationship, their friends and their enemies right where we last saw them, and with the prospect of the future closer than ever. The kids are volunteering around to spruce up their college apps, and Lara Jean decides to volunteer at the same retirement home her sister did. As her boyfriend, you would think Peter would want to as well, but alas teenage boys will do what they do, and because of this, Lara Jean is left volunteering alone with none other than John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), the handsome, smart last recipient of her love letters. I mean things can be a lot worse than spending time with your 6th grade crush, right?
John Ambrose is everything right for Lara Jean, it seems. While she struggles with insecurities in her relationship with Peter, everything with John comes so easy. They enjoy the same things, got along really well growing up, and obviously share an attraction for each other. Plus, John doesn’t have a catty ex girlfriend (ahem, Gen (Emilija Baranac) like Peter does. Everything is poised for John and Lara to actually be perfect for each other, so it comes as no surprise that Lara doesn’t immediately tell him that she’s dating Peter. She doesn’t want to lose that ease and comfort.
Which brings us to Peter and Lara. I feel like the film attempted to capture the nuance of emotions that comes along with being in a new relationship. At the end of the first film, the two made an impossible request of each other: never break each others’ hearts. If only it were so easy, but after the big kiss, reality sets in. Peter and Lara have very differing interests, and he is sometimes too busy and careless to remember he has a girlfriend. Lara Jean also struggles with being a girlfriend, something she has never been before. He has expectations of her and she of him, and none of those are really ever discussed between the two.
In this sense, the film succeeds in capturing said nuance. While Lara and Peter obviously care deeply for each other, relationships are never perfect, and it’s fun to watch them traverse these issues, sometimes frustratingly, because it’s real. What isn’t real, or understandable, to me however is Peter’s connection with his ex and how sneakily he goes about it all. The writers expect us to believe that Peter is head-over-heels for Lara, yet he isn’t honest about his conversations with his ex. The sweet Peter we all once knew is now sneaking behind Lara’s back and being extra shady. No me gusta.
What also took me off guard was the erasure of two of my favorite secondary characters- Chris (Madeleine Arthur) and especially Lucas (Trezzo Mahoro.) They were such a huge support system for Lara and a fun addition to the first film that their absence definitely did not go unnoticed by me. There is no progress for the side characters, who I did, in fact, want to know more about. Lucas talks about the struggles of dating as a gay teen, yet that’s never explored. He’s minimized to a few lines, and I want justice!
Once again, the music selection of the film contributes to the teen, high school world of love and all. There are some true, hidden music gems in there. Also, the direction carries on much of the feel of the first film. There’s a certain brightness and attraction to the clarity and color palette. The costume designers and the production team captured the feeling of winter perfectly, without giving off a Christmas-y vibe. The world created feels less like suburban-America and more like a fictitious wonderland, with magnificent eco-friendly grocery stores, perfectly clean schools, and a retirement home that looks like a million dollar mansion.
Through all the teenage struggles and overreactions, the film ends with order restored back to the world. Lara and Peter love each other, Lara knows she shouldn’t be so insecure, and there is yet again, an ending epic kiss to leave audiences hanging on to the idea of forever.