*SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!*
The second Netflix movie installment of Jenny Han’s book trilogy To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was released two days before Valentine’s Day, and I could not have been any more excited. Although I, along with the millions of TATBILB fans have been waiting for this movie for two years (I mean, #TeamPeter am I right?), this movie definitely has some major changes: like recasting our beloved John Ambrose McClaren from Model UN, now played by Jordan Fisher--who’s also our newest lead in Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway. Setting the scene for this unexpected love triangle, the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: PS I Still Love You starts off with Lara Jean learning how to navigate her first-ever relationship with the boy of her dreams. However, when John Ambrose comes back into her life, so do the memories of their middle school version of skinny love. Lara Jean Covey is in love with the idea of love, and this is both beneficial and detrimental to her teenage relationship.
PS I Love You takes care in exploring the ins and outs of high school love; the true awkwardness of how to be with a guy more experienced than you, while knowing that his ex-girlfriend Gen is the most popular girl at school, having a talk about establishing boundaries with your SO, along with normal insecurities of not being “like other girls”. There are so many firsts that Lara Jean has to experience, yet all that she can think about is how Peter has already done them with Gen. Flash-forward to her volunteering at the Belleview, an upscale retirement home that her older sister Margot (who was an essential part of the first movie but is now reduced to an appearance via FaceTime) volunteered at, she reacquaints herself with John Ambrose, who not only answered her letter with his 6th-grade self’s feelings but his potential current feelings as they hang out more throughout the movie. Lara Jean is torn between wanting to be good enough for Peter but also her realization that being with John Ambrose is “easy”.
“I thought having a boyfriend meant the idea of other boys left your mind completely. I didn’t want to be thinking of what might have been. But I was.”
Both characters serve as literary foils that make them seem so compatible with one another, which tugs at the heartstrings of everyone watching this cursed movie *cue the crying as I watch this at midnight*.
Another aspect of this movie that I really appreciated was the consistency of highlighting the Song-Covey’s Korean culture. This brings the real world into this rom-com, and how their classically American father helps his two daughters immerse themselves in their late mother’s culture, a way of remembering and honoring her. LJ’s little sister Kitty is also on a mission to hook him up with their neighbor Mrs. Rothschild, which goes to show that both Lara Jean and her dad are in the same boat, navigating new relationships, which truly can be scary. It seems that everyone’s getting a happy ending, right? Yeah… no.
The old gang (which consists of LJ, Peter, John Ambrose, Gen, Chris, and Trevor-- the latter two that are now dating #unproblematiccouple) gets together again at their old treehouse before it’s torn down at the request of the new owners. They open up a time capsule and dig up one or two secrets about themselves and their relationships--as in, John Ambrose finds out that LJ is dating Peter and NOT Gen anymore and his heart is crushed. Peter tells Lara Jean that she doesn’t have to compare himself to Gen, but she does anyway and tries to be the perfect girlfriend by dressing up for his lacrosse game. Everything comes crumbling down when LJ finds out that the circumstances of them getting together were all a set-up and Gen has been finding solace in none other than Peter Kavinsky himself. The description of heartbreak is accurate as Lara Jean goes through a hazy montage of falling asleep on her bedroom floor, not having him as a lab partner, and giving back his necklace in a really heartbreaking scene at their aquarium field trip, but it is obvious that Peter’s hurting too.
But of course, a girl has to learn how to move on, and our protagonist realizes that it’s not fair for her to only think of the superficial. I think my favorite part of the movie (and what made me cry the hardest) was when she invited Gen to meet with her at the treehouse and releases all her bitter feelings of being mad at her because of her fear of competition. Gen and Lara Jean are revealed to be ex-best friends, and they put on their friendship bracelets from the time capsule as she describes a Korean phrase called “jung”, a tie between the both of them that can never be severed, even if love turns to hate and time passes by. She realizes that she can’t be angered by the fact that Gen and Peter have “jung” as well. Gen tells LJ that her parents are getting a divorce and because Peter has gone through it, she’s been leaning on him; but his heart is not hers anymore. She knows that Peter Kavinsky is absolutely in love with Lara Jean Covey.
The Star Ball at the Belleview is what ties everything together. After weeks of organizing it, Lara Jean and John Ambrose go together and dance the night away, until a kiss reveals to both of them that she still wants Peter (cute, but also, why does she have to kiss someone before realizing Peter’s the one? Remember Josh from TATBILB?). To her surprise, Peter’s there to pick her up because he remembered she doesn’t like driving in the snow.
“Break my heart, Covey. Break my heart into a thousand pieces, do whatever you want.” Boom. There goes my heart. And the stars dance and they fly away (literally) into the dawn. PS I Still Love You is a pretty good sequel, with the third installment already done filming and waiting for release, but oh dear god, do I wish that they went more towards the original interpretation of the book and deeper into the great friendships forged and left hanging.
PS: John Ambrose McClaren deserved better. There I said it.
Watch To All the Boys I’ve Loved: PS I Still Love You on Netflix.