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September 30, 2023

To All the Boys Sequel falls prey to tried clichés

By EUNICE PARK | February 20, 2020

When Netflix released the movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in 2018, it immediately became a huge hit. Capturing the attention of young girls and hopeless romantics, the uprise of the movie’s fans led to the recent release of its sequel, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. Based on the original book series by Jenny Han, it provides a loaded glimpse into the labyrinth that is young love, confusion and teenage awkwardness. Now it’s time for the full inside scoop of the new movie (spoiler alert ahead). 

For those who watched the first movie, we all know how it ends: We are left with the sweetest scene of Lara Jean, played by Lana Condor, and Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo, sharing a kiss in the middle of their high school’s lacrosse field shortly after Peter confesses that he is in love with her. This ending was satisfying to most, if not all, of their fans, because the whole plot of the first movie is the development of how their fake relationship (of which the sole purpose was to make Peter’s ex-girlfriend jealous) blossoms into something real. 

Thanks to Lara Jean’s little sister Kitty, who finds all of her secret love letters and sends them out, Lara Jean is taken on an emotional roller coaster that she’s only ever fantasized about. And through this, she and Peter realize that they have more in common than they thought and eventually fall for one another. 

Now that’s the happy ending that we all crave. But when Jenny Han brings in John Ambrose, a past recipient of one of Lara Jean’s love letters, confusion and the inability to choose who she wants becomes her greatest struggle. 

The sequel begins with Lara Jean and Peter starting their new relationship. The actors do an excellent job of portraying the excitement and young love that the brand new couple shares. However, Lara Jean’s insecurities of “not being enough” intensify as she observes how popular Peter is. After confiding in her friend Lucas, she soon discovers that the other volunteer at the senior living home at which she volunteers at is none other than John Ambrose. 

The two start to develop their own relationship when old sparks are reignited. As the movie progresses, Lara Jeans falls into visible distress as she reevaluates her relationship with the long-sought-after Peter Kavinsky. The sweet moments between Lara Jean and John Ambrose during their volunteer service slip into her mind almost every second of everyday. Her insecurities intensify even further as she begins to suspect that Peter is still in love with his ex, Gen, who just so happens to be Lara Jean’s ex-best friend from middle school. 

This emotional confusion that she faces leads her to make a spontaneous and eventually regretful decision of gathering her old middle school friends together to dig up an old time capsule that they had buried together. Coincidentally, both John and Peter happened to be in this old friend group, so when Lara Jean sees both her worlds collide, she realizes that she’s made a grave mistake. 

Dissonance continues as Lara Jean and Peter break up over a fight that originates yet again from Lara Jean’s insecurities with his friendship with Gen. They go days without speaking to one another. In this emotionally charged state, Lara Jean kisses John during an event at the senior home and realizes that she is in love with Peter. After seeking advice from one of the senior residents, Stormy, she realizes that she must go win Peter back. As she runs out of broken-hearted John’s arms and out of the senior home, Peter is just on his way inside. 

This bittersweet ending is exactly what I was hoping for and is a real tearjerker. This sequel, though questionable in speed of plot development, brought fans the picture-perfect ending they demanded. 

However, the sequel hasn’t received the best reviews. Ani Bundel from NBC News wrote, “Watching the sequel fail to meet this pretty low standard makes the first film seem less like a breakthrough moment and more like a lucky break for Netflix. Like John Ambrose, P.S. I Still Love You is nice, but that's about it.” 

Personally, I wasn’t as big a fan of the second movie as I was of the first. The original turmoil, tension and desire is not as prominent in the sequel as I would have liked. Although the ending is beautiful, I questioned the slow plot movement as well as the acting — if anything, Lana Condor’s acting in the sequel seemed to be forced, emphasizing how cliché the theme of teenage love can be. 

However, despite its flaws, I’m glad to have finally watched this long-awaited sequel.

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