By Iris Harshaw,
The first question when reviewing sequels is always whether or not they lived up to the first movie. “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” was a Netflix smash hit in 2018. It was a cheesy teenage rom-com, yet still original. It had a diverse cast, unique plot and modern pop music soundtrack: truly a teenage romance designed in the 21st century.
But, did the sequel live up to the original hype? Even though I’d say no, it’s still worth watching.
The conflict of the sequel is a bit cliche: our heroine Lara Jean (Lana Condor) struggles to figure out how to navigate her new relationship with Peter (Noah Centineo) as her middle school crush John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) re-enters her life.
First of all, the boy vs. boy narrative just doesn’t feel as natural as the conflict from the first movie. Lara Jean and Peter’s romantic connection had already fully developed in the first movie, and the sequel doesn’t make any attempts to keep building that character development with the exception of a few sappy montages.
John Ambrose, however, is given the entire movie to build a connection with Lara Jean, which gives the viewers an unfair bias towards their relationship. Despite that fact, when checking twitter, you can find plenty of people on either Team Peter or Team John Ambrose. I attribute that divide to both male leads being attractive and having generally positive personality traits.
Even though I found myself disappointed with some of the character and plot directions in this movie, I was still on the edge of my seat watching Lara Jean mess up her love life. Maybe some people would find this movie to be too cliche, but the cheesiness is what makes the movie so endearing.
Within all the teen angst, the movie displayed beautiful cinematography, multiple representations of Korean culture, and discussions of parental divorce and college application padding. Was it unrealistic that Lara Jean gets up from bed in a full face of makeup? Sure, but a lot of features of the movie do break down traditional barriers of the usual teen romance flick.
I was especially glad to see a scene where Lara Jean focuses on fixing her female friendship and comes to terms with her insecurities before even thinking about addressing her boy problems. It was really refreshing to see the characters break the usual mold of girl vs. girl cat fights seen so often in high school dramas.
It took an annoyingly long time for Lara Jean to get to that point, though. I know that the point of the movie is for Lara Jean to learn and grow as a person, but I couldn’t help but want to yell at the protagonist for making poor decisions like intentionally flirting with John Ambrose.
Although I found myself annoyed, there were moments when I swooned at Lara Jean and Peter’s chemistry and moments when I found myself relating so much to their superficial teenage conflicts.
If a movie can make me feel that variety of emotions, none of the criticisms really matter. The conflicts may seem inconsequential and the one-liners may be too predictable, but that’s what makes it a proper teenage romance. If that genre is your cup of tea, then this movie is well worth the watch.
Simply put, the first movie was a must-see and the sequel is a pleasant footnote.