To Everybody Who Didn’t Understand the True Meaning of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before 2-Read This
By: Maira Ito
[The following article contains HUGE spoilers for the first and second production of the Jenny Han trilogy of “To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved”]
Approximately two years ago, Overbrook Entertainment and Awesomeness Films delegated Jenny Han’s popular novel, “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” to reality. Lana Condor and Noah Centineo impersonated the characters flawlessly, delivering racial inclusivity and starting a new era of teenage rom-coms- making this production one of Netflix’s most-watched movies of 2018. According to Netflix and Variety Magazine, it was revealed that 50% of viewers watched the film at least once more, making Netflix hastily endorse two new continuations. Subsequently, two years following the release, the sequel was revealed shortly after Valentine’s Day, following the developments of the first movie of the trilogy.
In the first film, Lana Condor perfected Lara Jean Song-Covey, a timid Korean-American teenage girl with frightful driving skills, often outshined by her mature older sister, Margot Song Covey - who has no plans of sticking around after high school. Seem familiar? Her devious and yet adorable little sister, Kitty, mails the letters in an attempt to better her sister’s social life shortly following her sister’s sad departure to her university.
A total of five letters were mailed-much without her sister’s knowledge of who did the deed. In the first flick, three recipients received the letters: one being her neighbour Josh-who also happens to be a recent ex of her sister. Peter Kavinsky, a teenage heartthrob and on-and-off-again boyfriend of Genevieve the stories -much despised- villain. And lastly Lucas, a sweet boy who has not come out of the closet due to his dad’s strict ideals.
We follow Lara Jean-Covey on a mission to avoid Josh as much as possible by “dating”(a.k.a falsifying their whole relationship and misleading everybody around them) Peter Kavinsky in an attempt to make his ex Gen jealous. In the first feature, Lara-Jean is nevertheless in her shell, a classic introvert often hiding away in a world of books. Sarcastically enough, in an interview with The Cut, Lana Condor revealed that she was as much of an introvert as Lara Jean, being able to relate to the romance obsessed teen.
Moreover, after encountering Peter and being obliged to go to parties(in regards to the contract they formed at the beginning), school trips and football games, we start observing a less introverted main character-with more friends and confidence. She acknowledges her attachment to Peter in the infamous hot tub scene and they soon start dating. Their relationship, however, undertakes new challenges when a recording of their make-out session in the hot tub goes viral, with the whole school thinking they had sex. The highly-rated film ends with Lara-Jean and Peter kissing in the football field, now being in a relationship. In the first adaption, there is slight character evolution on behalf of Lara Jean’s side, as she finally reflects and reasons her issues out with Josh -somebody who she tried to avoid for the whole premise of the movie- by explaining her love to him was not necessarily love, but a mere crush prompted by loneliness and failed fantasies, something that over time, faded away.
Promptly following the premise and sequel of the last production, “P.S I Still Love You” introduces a new recipient to the letters - John-Ambrose Mcclaren. Portrayed by Jordan Fisher, he is characterized as a lovable, kind and the type of guy that serves pizza unasked. He ventures into wooing L.J, making her feelings towards Peter confused.
At this point, Peter and Lara Jean start spiraling, having numerous arguments and disputes regarding L.J’s insecurity of Genevieve. In the car following their first date, things go further than expected, with Peter unbuttoning her blouse. She politely turns him down, saying she’s not ready. A sassy imaginative interpretation of Geneviene speaks in the background while this takes place, showing how insecure Lara Jean is that Peter was not hers to begin with. However, things circulate for worse, when it’s revealed that Peter was actually anticipating and waiting for Genevieve in the hot tub scene, not L.J.
I’m certain most of those who watched or read about the movie so far, favour John Ambrose. He treats the main character with respect and affection, can play the piano and serenade his significant other, and overall makes Lara Jean feel more comfortable around him rather than with Peter who she feels awkward with due to his relation with Gen. I am positive how upsetting it was for the audience when L.J picked Peter in the finale, despite her romantic moments with John Ambrose.
This specific section proves to be extremely important in the end and portrays the whole meaning of the film. At the beginning of the storyline, we are shown L.J and Peter vowing to never hurt each other, something very unrealistic-especially in high school relationships where they are still developing and learning their identities. The second movie characterized more realistic sides to the figures, emotions such as doubt and fear being visibly naked to the eye of the viewer. Much of this is interpreted in Gen’s revealing family drama. Her character up until this point appeared dehumanizing and almost emotionless, but in this perspective, we are seeing a more relatable individual, a person suffering from the after-effects from a cheating parent.
Josh was one of Lara Jean crushes and childhood friends, however upon inspection, LJ realized her attraction to him wasn’t actually love but rather confused adolescent feelings interpreted for love as he was the only boy she really ever knew well. Another interesting fact she brought up in their conversation near the end of the movie, where Lara Jean admits that most of the letters were products and bypasses of fantasy. Then, in the second movie when things start spiraling with Peter she quotes:
“The overthinking..that doesn’t happen with John Ambrose.”(Lara Jean, in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before).
She starts comparing her relationship with Peter to John, due to her incessant overthinking-What if? What if the letter was sent out earlier? Would things have been different? Her beautifully cursive letters were products of conceptualized romances, and her relationship with Peter was the outcome of them spending more time with one another. The many novels she read in her spare time created the delusion that romances are perfect roads without any missteps.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before takes the opportunity to show the realities of a logical and realistic relationship, visibly laying out what happens after a movie’s happily ever after. It demonstrates that not every argument commences a breakup, and a “perfect” relationship is not a fantasy, as one such as Lara Jean and John Ambrose. But rather one that does bear mistakes and has opportunities to learn how to pick each other back up, such as Lara Jean and Peters.
Much as how in the beginning, Lara Jean mistook her feelings for Josh, she wanted to like John Ambrose in a dire attempt to run away from her problems with Peter and not break her promise to not hurt him-which gave her an excuse to not resolve her problems with Gen, her ex-childhood best friend. The film concludes with more character development than the first production, as L.J uncovers the sensibilities of a real relationship and that hurting each other is vital and not avoidable. The production also created more humane aspects to hated characters, showing that some books can’t be judged by their covers.