It’s a rom-com that begins and ends like one
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You begins like most romance movies do: a montage of a girl getting ready for her first-ever real date. This is followed by the actual date where the guy takes the girl to a nice restaurant, they hold hands, stare into each other’s eyes and cap the night off with a happens-only-in-movies activity. In this case, it was Lara Jean and Peter painting their names on a paper lantern while promising to never break each other’s hearts and setting it afloat in the night sky. “It was perfect,” she tells Peter as the date comes to an end.
I get it, it’s a rom-com and not Marriage Story. It’s supposed to be dreamy with young love as the only thing to be overcome. And that’s exactly how To All The Boys begins and ends.
Lara Jean is now really dating the prince of her high school, Peter. He’s popular, attractive and probably the most sensitive jock among his peers. Lara Jean, on the other hand, is prim, shy and emotionally complex (or troubled because she’s a teen? IDK). Naturally, she struggles as she navigates through her firsts (kiss, relationship, etc.) and battles her own insecurities that cause her to overthink just about everything. She is, after all, dating her ex-best friend’s ex-boyfriend. But there is little to be invested in; the pair has nothing much in common save for Lana Condor and Noah Centineo’s on-screen chemistry.
The plot twist—or should I say competition?—comes in the form of John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), one of the five recipients of her love letters. Her insecurity coupled with what ifs or sheer curiosity leads her to keep his relationship with Peter private (but then does John Ambrose not have social media?). Similarly, she fails to tell her boyfriend that she’s reconnected with an old crush and are volunteering in the same retirement home together. So I was curious if #TeamJohn could be a thing because they obviously have history, more shared interests and lame-cool moments that feel a lot more relatable than her current relationship (sorry, Peter). And while people are calling out Lara Jean for being an ass to both John Ambrose and Peter, haven’t we all been in a conflicting situation once?
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Not to say I agree with LJ or the fabulous geriatric Stormy, whose advice was likely given between Bloody Marys and a glass of vodka. But confusion happens in many relationships, whether it’s at the beginning, in the middle or at the end. It happens when an individual or two people try to figure out what it means to be with someone and how to stay with that same person despite annoying habits or general differences.
What’s problematic was John Amrbose’s character being mellow about everything, from how he awkwardly found out at the tree house that Lara Jean and Peter are together to after he and LJ share an empty kiss. How is he fine about being used and later discarded? As a teenager, regardless of gender and to whom everything is new, his character should be pissed AF.
But I guess rom-coms aren’t supposed to dwell in conflict. It’s supposed to be sugar-sweet and light-as-air. On that accord, To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You resonates with an audience looking for some sort of euphoric escapism—but maybe not those looking for something real.
To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is now streaming on Netflix.
Art Alexandra Lara