‘To All the Boys’ sequel is as charming as the first

Warm, beautiful and bright, the second installment lives up to expectations

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"To All the Boys" star Lana Condor pictured at San Diego Comic Con in 2015 for her role in "X-Men: Apocalypse."

Courtesy Gage Skidmore

When “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” first dropped on Netflix in August of 2018, it was met with praise from critics and casual consumers alike. A unique gem of a romantic comedy, “To All the Boys” was unafraid to cultivate depth and story with a wide cast of non-archetypal characters — all without sacrificing the warm, fuzzy essence that make our favorite rom-coms a joy to watch and rewatch. Needless to say, the sequel has been highly anticipated, as fans wondered what might become of the unlikely couple from the first film, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) and Lara Jean (Lana Condor). 

“To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” is a seamless continuation of its predecessor, true to its aim to simply be the next installment in one cohesive narrative. The film captures the colorful whimsy of the first, retaining the same jewel-toned color palette and aesthetic composition. Perfectly crafted bird’s-eye view shots, funky costume design and a pulsating, refreshingly modern soundtrack all contribute to a “To All the Boys” universe that fits very well into a 2020 world — while still being distinct in its own right. 

This is not to say that the characters have not developed, or that the basic narrative of the first film gets recycled. Lara Jean is challenged by her new relationship status, and experiences doubts and trials that may resonate with any young person navigating the insecurities of adolescence. Interwoven with the overarching love story are deeper themes of family life — especially with respect to Lara’s father (John Corbett) and his grieving over her mother — and Asian-American culture, with one scene in particular featuring Lara Jean and her sister dressing traditionally for the Korean New Year. It is both a nod to their heritage and a means of showing how Lara’s father remains meaningfully connected to the extended family of his deceased wife. 

New supporting characters add even more color to the rom-com. The loveable John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) is smoothly introduced as a recipient of one of Lara Jean’s letters from the first film. His presence adds a tenderness of friendship and genuine nostalgia. Stormy (Holland Taylor), the outspoken retirement home resident acts as a motherly mentor to Lara Jean — always enshrouded with opulence and vibrancy. We even see a new side of Gen (Emilija Baranac) — the obligatory “mean girl” — as we learn of her own struggles and gain deeper insight to her lingering ties to Peter. 

A particularly poignant moment features Gen and Lara Jean finally becoming honest with one another. Narrating, Lara Jean says, “There’s a Korean word my grandma taught me. It’s called “jung”. It’s the connection between two people that can’t be severed. Even when love turns to hate, you will always have tenderness in your heart for them. Me and Gen have jung. Part of us will always be tied to one another. If I want to move forward, I have to stop blaming Peter for having it with her, too.” 

It is this emotional maturity and character growth that keep the audience rooting for Lara Jean, even when she errs in love and friendship. A relatable protagonist with an affinity for “pensive baking,” Lara Jean is easily forgiven.

Overall, the second act of the series is emotional, humorous and best of all, cheesy. It satisfies the rom-com conventions of whirlwind romance — and our own desire to be swept up in it — with a unique poise and wit. What awaits fans of the series is a third and final installment from Netflix, where it is speculated that Peter Kavinsky and Lara Jean may have their relationship tried once again — this time by the prospect of college. Worth noting is that the book character, from whom the movie version of Peter is drawn, winds up attending none other than — spoiler alert — the University of Virginia. Wahoowa!

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