To All the Boys sequel delivers just what its viewers want

The Netflix film isn't groundbreaking, but it's a sweet fantasy

The sequel's storyline fails to live up to that of its predecessor.
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To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is nothing if not charmingly predictable.

So, even when protagonist Lara Jean glumly slips her perfect, paper quilled Valentine’s Day card into her bag instead of gifting it to her boyfriend, Peter—the first sign of trouble in their shiny new relationship—there’s no question that all their problems will be solved by the time the credits roll.

In the original, Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Korean-American teen Lara Jean (Lana Condor) begins fake-dating high school king Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) after all the secret love letters she’s written to boys are delivered without her knowledge, including the one addressed to him. Their plan is simple, if silly: she dates him so that her sister’s ex-boyfriend—another recipient of one of her love letters—is thrown off her trail. Peter dates Lara Jean to make his ex-girlfriend jealous.

But of course, somewhere along the way, the two fall in love.

Chances are, you’ve already watched the first film, released in 2018. It remains one of the platform’s biggest success stories, at least in terms of young adult viewership. But if you want to dip straight into the sequel, Lara Jean’s little sister also offers a great recap in the newest film when she attempts to impress the sisters’ moody, phone-obsessed cousin at a family gathering.

“That’s cool, actually,” the cousin concedes after hearing how Lara Jean and Peter fell in love. The sisters fist bump. And somewhere, I’m sure, the film’s producers pat themselves on the back for their hit love story—one that set things up for a few money-making sequels.

In the sequel, To All the Boys tackles what happens after the happily-ever-after. And since no film, and no relationship, is without conflict, it isn’t long after the couple promises to never break each other's hearts that they begin to—you guessed it—break each other’s hearts.

The linchpin of the sequel is that one of the love letter recipients, John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), sends a letter back to Lara Jean. Though she doesn’t reply, fate intervenes and the two end up volunteering at the same ritzy retirement home. John, unaware of Lara Jean’s relationship with his old buddy Peter, is ready to pick things up where they left off in sixth grade—which, though the film tries to make their young love seem earth-shattering, was reading Harry Potter books in a treehouse.

Lara Jean’s time with John Ambrose, combined with her dwindling faith in her relationship with Peter, leads her to question whether she and her new boyfriend will last. 

The love triangle is a familiar rom-com trope, but this one’s a little difficult to buy. Since the first film spent almost its entire runtime proving that Peter is the perfect guy, peddling him as a bit of a jerk is a hard sell for viewers. On one hand, the film does a good job at keeping viewers, and Lara Jean, questioning whether Peter still has feelings for his snarky ex-girlfriend. On the other, they also try to push that one of his fatal flaws is always taking the last slice of pizza. That’s rude of him, I guess, but hardly a reason to call it quits.

Pizza aside, everything comes down to Lara Jean’s relationship naivety. She’s unable to deal with Peter’s friendship with his ex, even though, all the while, she hides her relationship with John Ambrose from Peter.  

As with most sequels, the storyline doesn’t match up to that of its predecessor. The first film comes with all the built-in excitement of being introduced to Lara Jean’s world, meeting the cast of characters, watching as her and Peter’s secret scheme unfolds, and witnessing the building tension of an unlikely romance. For this movie, the filmmakers had to work with what they already had.

That said, they did a great job giving most viewers exactly what they wanted.

Though one of my complaints is that Lara Jean’s family got significantly less screen time—her older sister was only featured in a quick FaceTime call, her father’s budding romance was swept into the background, and her younger sister only popped in to make comments on Lara Jean’s relationship status—the filmmakers knew what they were doing. They kept the focus on what they know their young audience cares about: Lara Jean and Peter.

At one point in the film, Lara Jean even admits that it’s their story, and just the beginning of it. (A hint at future sequels, I’m sure.)

This film, like its predecessor, knows it’s job: it’s delivering a fantasy. Everything from the set design to the costumes says so: the glossy high school banners, the retirement home that looks straight out of Architectural Digest, and Lara Jean’s perfectly styled hair and clothes. Her messy room is arguably the only realistic part of the film’s otherwise Pinterest-board perfection. 

If you go into the sequel expecting the next great romance, you’ll be disappointed. But let’s face it, you’re going into it knowing exactly what you’re getting—a sweet, innocent, but impossible love story.  

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