To All the Boys 2 Review: LJ Returns as Feminist Hero of Romance
(Note: The following review does not contain spoilers)
Continuing from exactly where To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before left us, the second installment of the TATB trilogy begins with Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) going on their real first date.
Directed by Michael Fimognari and based on the novels by Jenny Han, To All The Boys 2: P.S. I Still Love You is a cheesier and prettier extension of the first film. Just like the first installment, the sequel gives us an amazing soundtrack (almost as good as Sex Education), more beautiful frames, and a somewhat relatable Lara Jean.
As Lara Jean finally gets to live her bookish dreams of romance, she’s visited by a certain ghost from her past as another one of her crushes responds to her letter that was sneakily sent by her sister Kitty (Anna Cathcard).
This time, it’s John Ambrose Mclaren (Jordan Fisher) - an old friend of Peter Kavinsky who now studies at a different school. John Ambrose responds to her letter and LJ briefly considers writing back to him before temporarily giving up on the idea. But that’s not the end of it. As fate would have it, Lara Jean unexpectedly bumps into him at an old age home where they’re both volunteering. Naturally, there’s a lot of (great) chemistry and flirting as Lara Jean finally realises that things aren’t as simple in real life. Especially not when *real* people with *real* feelings are involved.
In the first part of the trilogy, which released on Netflix in 2018, we experienced the story through Lara Jean’s eyes. In To All The Boys 2, we virtually live inside her mind as she navigates through life. Lara Jean returns as the feminist hero we saw her be in the first film. This time around too she’s articulate, honest and embraces romance and femininity with confidence and clarity. At times, the depth of her self-awareness as a 16-year-old feels unreal, but in the larger scheme of things, that is pretty insignificant. Lana Condor once again does not disappoint; although her acting seems to lack a certain candidness that could have benefited the character of Lara Jean.
Unfortunately, it’s Noah Centineo’s character that seems to have been written out. If in Part 1 Peter Kavinsky made you believe that not all white high school jocks are jerks, in the second part Kavinsky will make you question that belief.
However, it is safe to say that it’s John Ambrose who steals the show. Jordan Fisher’s onscreen presence is nothing short of charming. His relationship with Lara Jean is easy, kind and understanding. And the chemistry between the two lingers somewhere between a platonic friendship and a romantic conquest.
Lara Jean’s coming-of-age story is one about boys. Yet the script gives Lana Condor’s character full credit for paddling her own canoe. In To All The Boys 2, Lara Jean’s journey of self-discovery is independent of her relationship with Peter, as she forms and nurtures several other bonds.
While her severed friendship with Gen does not exactly mend itself, it does reach a transformative point of stability. In the first part, we saw a Lara Jean who preferred to play it safe. In the second part, Lara Jean gets risky and truly comes into her own.
What Worked And What Didn’t
In the past few years, Netflix has tried to breathe new life into the rom-com/YA genre, with inclusive representation at the heart of the agenda. TATB, Someone Great, Always Be My Maybe - all stood out in the genre. However, TATB stands out for being the most dramatic and fantasy-like of the lot. While Lara Jean’s coming-of-age story is well-written and relatable, there’s something about 16-year-olds being so mature that makes it difficult to completely lose yourself in the film. The screenplay and production is just too... magical (for the lack of a better word). What I really appreciated about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was that despite its Sixteen Candles reference and whatnot, it still felt honest and not as dreamy as the second part.
All said and done, if, like me, you found yourself invested in Lara Jean’s story by the end of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, then you’re definitely going to enjoy this one. It’s soft and mushy and gives you all the right feels.
To All The Boys 2: P.S I Still Love You starts streaming globally on Netflix from 12 February.
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