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I should have known To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You was going to have problems from the outset. First of all, that title is a mouthful, and not in the fun way that The Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is (was?). Secondly, if you’ve read the second book in Jenny Han’s series, you already knew where P.S. I Still Love You was going and frankly, many people disagree with the author’s choices on the matter. In practice, this does not make P.S. I Still Love You any easier to watch.
Spoilers abound from here on about P.S. I Still Love You, with comments about the book and the movie. To note, this is not a review. If you are looking for a review of the movie, we have you covered however!
To me, the first real sign of trouble with To All The Boys 2 comes simply with the fact that the original To All The. Boys I’ve Loved Before takes some of the best parts of the second book in Jenny Han’s series and uses them in the first movie. This does a great job in the first movie of setting up the romance between Peter and Lara Jean. It does not help the plot of this second movie.
Then, there’s the John Ambrose McClaren issue. Jordan Fisher’s brand new character is a stand-up guy. He writes Lara Jean back with a traditional letter after he gets her original letter. They have a meet-cute in To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You that’s really great and they spend time together in a way that allows Lara Jean to grow as a person while she’s dealing with a bunch of side drama with Peter. He's meant to be a worthy opponent of Peter's but really from what we see he's just better than Peter.
Love triangles often work in movies, but over and over again P.S. I Still Love You seems hellbent on making sure we know Lara Jean is with the wrong guy. John Ambrose McClaren reminds her of her past, when life was simpler, but in a good way. He’s interested in her peanut butter chocolate cupcakes. He shares her preference for doing “lame” stuff over partying.
A lot of people think he’s the clear better fit for Lara Jean, as evidenced online.
I mean the dude started going by John Ambrose for his girl years ago and then responded in kind when she sent him a letter. Who is not swooning over these sorts of plot points?
Sometimes the debates are getting heated but much of the time John Ambrose McClaren is winning out:
Look, it’s hard to make a satisfying sequel to a romantic comedy, even when there’s book material to work off of. Hallmark likes to go down the path of getting people together in the first movie and then in the second movie having them plan a wedding which comes with stressors and almost splits the couple apart (but doesn’t). Obviously To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is set during high school, so the sequel could not even go that route and if it had it would have been ludicrous.
But should Lara Jean have ended up with Peter even if that’s what happens in the books? A lot of people don't think so.
One thing P.S. I Still Love You does do well is set up tension early on. Peter and Lara Jean are still feeling each other out as a couple. She lets him volunteer with his buddies even though she’d clearly rather spend time with him. Things escalate from there while they fight about Lara Jean having feelings and being dishonest with her dating status and Peter having invited Gen to the hot tub the night he and Lara Jean hooked up.
The plot of the book feels real and the arguments feel like real arguments that would happen in high school. Yet Peter makes plenty of decisions that don’t set him up as the most mature person in this universe, even taking back a locket he gave Lara Jean early in the movie. John Ambrose McClaren on the other hand accepts Lara Jean’s apology with grace when she is dishonest with him and doesn’t rise to the bait when Peter brings up his former speech impediment. I don't think Peter's a bad guy, but it's clear he has growing up to do.
There’s a third book in the series called Always and Forever, Lara Jean that follows Lara Jean and Peter as they try to navigate the end of high school and figure out if they can be together in college (a prospect I’ve seen not work out in real life more often than I’ve seen it work out). The third movie has actually already been filmed for Netflix, so we’ll have to wait and see if Lara Jean and Peter navigate college acceptance while trying to stay together.
It doesn’t really matter how To All The Boys 3 ends and whether or not it follows the same trajectory as Jenny Han’s third book in the series. If this were real life and the story continued somehow past the final moments in the book, college would eventually start for the two of them and Lara Jean and Peter would either try to make the same college work, which would mean one person could regret the sacrifice, or they would go to separate schools and try to make distance work. Either way, most relationships (not all but most) that try to keep the spark between high school and college fail.
It’s difficult to do romantic sequels in general, but if you add the complexities of growing up into the process, it’s really hard for me to believe there’s a future where Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship has a satisfying ending, particularly given it certainly doesn't have a satisfying ending this go around. Maybe this is the cynic in me, but with the age Lara Jean and her compatriots are right now, a lot is in flux, and while that's realistically portrayed in the movie, it's also frustrating for viewers.
Then again, perhaps in this make believe scenario, college is when John Ambrose McClaren swoops in and reasserts himself into Lara Jean’s life. At least, that’s what P.S. I Still Love You fans who have been vocal on the internet can hope.