“The book was better” is a common refrain among us bookish types, for good reason, but sometimes movie adaptations do manage to take us by surprise in the best way. Case in point: Jenny Han’s To All the Boys book trilogy is perfection, period. Honestly, though? We kinda love the Netflix movies just as much! They capture the spirit of the books’ characters and narrative arc while adding new dimensions to Han’s beloved universe through scene-stealing performances, a fantastic soundtrack, and some delightful subplots we never saw coming. To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, which premiered last week, is everything we wanted it to be and more!
Here are a few of the moments that made us jump for joy, gasp aloud, and maybe even cause a few tears to shimmer. Some are brilliantly executed scenes from the book (that make us want to start yet another reread) and others are ingenious inventions of the filmmakers, but all of them remind us why we would follow Lara Jean, Peter K., John Ambrose & co. anywhere.
WARNING: THERE ARE MANY SPOILERS AHEAD! If you haven’t seen To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You yet and don’t want us to ruin a moment for you, then you may want to follow Margot’s lead and run away from this teenage drama.
Kitty plays matchmaker…again.
Some of the best, most reliable comic relief in the books and movies comes courtesy of one Katherine Song Covey (Kitty to her friends). A precocious tween with an astonishingly well-developed sixth sense for romantic chemistry, Kitty’s matchmaking schemes are as entertaining in P.S. I Still Love You as they were in the first movie. Now that she has one “success story” under her belt, what with Lara Jean and Peter firmly established as a real couple, Kitty’s got her eye on an even bigger prize: her widowed father and their divorced neighbor, Ms. Rothschild. This subplot from the books could have come across as cheesy and/or obnoxious in the wrong hands, but it turns out to be utterly charming in the film. I took particular delight in Kitty’s plan to help her dad out by sending Ms. Rothschild a glittery valentine in his name. Innocent and endearing, yet ultimately quite cunning!
Trevor makes his Bachelor-esque entrance in Wood Shop.
OMG yes! Trevor’s unexpected appearance in Wood Shop, where he interrupts Lara Jean (whom I shall henceforth call LJ) and Chris’s annual Valentine’s Day lunch (once again sponsored by Subway), is like a moment straight out of The Bachelor. While most of those reality TV entrances are cringeworthy, Trevor popping in the door with a rose clenched between his teeth is the perfect blend of suave and comedic. This scene isn’t in the books, but now I am majorly shipping Chris and Trevor and cannot get enough of this surprisingly perfect couple. Please, Jenny Han, give us a spin-off with the two of them!
P.S. I’m really hoping that Chris is the one who sent Trevor this Valentine’s Day serenade:
Your fire ▢
Your one desire ▢
Love, Me pic.twitter.com/HJXXgeaigN
— To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (@toalltheboys) February 14, 2020
Lara Jean and Peter discuss “base jumping.”
While reading a book, you can understand what the main character is thinking because their thoughts are right there on the page, but in a film adaptation it isn’t as easy to interpret. I really enjoy how the movie depicts LJ’s thoughts and monologues, with other characters “appearing” at a moment when she is freaking out. Things start to get a bit hot and heavy (in a PG-13 way) for LJ and Peter while making out in his car, when a vision of Genevieve “Gen” sitting in the back seat suddenly intrudes on LJ’s consciousness. LJ starts comparing her relationship with Peter to Gen’s and realizes that her inexperience with sex may raise some issues for him.
You may have thought you’d heard all the ways to talk about the birds and the bees, but this is a fresh take. Baseball terminology is commonly used to talk about sex, but instead of taking that more traditional approach (apparently this metaphor dates back to the 1940s), Peter and LJ talk in terms of “base jumping.” There are a couple of scenes in the movie where they discuss her need to be ready to take their relationship to that next level before they jump off that proverbial cliff together. These days we seem to be living in a hyper-sexualized world, and it’s good to see characters slow down to talk about it, both in terms of consent and also being ready (for the first time) and feeling comfortable with their partner before acting on their feelings.
Things get a little tense at the tree house.
This scene is pure directorial genius. With the benefit of many years removed from high school, I couldn’t help but laugh at LJ’s internal monologue: “I didn’t realize until I saw them standing next to one another what a spectacularly bad idea this was.” Talk about teenage angst!
As the group (Peter, LJ, John Ambrose, Gen, Trevor, and Chris) gather in the tree house, reminiscing over the items they placed in the time capsule, you can feel the tension building. Who will break the news to John Ambrose that LJ and Peter are more than just friends??
The Coveys host Fakesgiving!
While watching the movie, it was often hard for me to distinguish between plotlines/dialogue that originated in the novels and those that didn’t, which speaks to what a remarkable adaptation we’re dealing with here. Case in point: Fakesgiving. Now, I’ve read the trilogy twice, and I didn’t remember the Coveys’ Thanksgiving-in-March tradition featured in the books at all. However, doubts started to creep in as I watched Mr. Covey, Lara Jean, Kitty, Peter, and Ms. Rothschild banter at the dinner table, since the scene was such a natural extension of the story. (Yes, I even went back and double-checked that my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me.)
Fakesgiving is not only a cool new pseudo-holiday that I plan to convince my friends to celebrate, but another nod to the Song girls’ beloved mother, whose memory is invoked more regularly in the books than is conveyed on-screen. As we learn from Mr. Covey’s sweet, funny story about the time he brought a can of green beans to a potluck hosted by the woman he’d eventually marry, Fakesgiving was Eve’s brainchild. The addition of this scene is a wonderful way to showcase the Coveys as a healthy family unit, one that will always love and honor the wife and mother they lost even as they welcome newcomers into the fold.
John Ambrose shares the story behind his double-name usage.
Only someone with a heart of stone could remain unmoved by John Ambrose at the piano, playing a beautiful melody off the cuff, just for fun. And when he confessed to Lara Jean that her fondness for calling him by both his first and middle names when they were kids (because she was so excited about it being something they had in common) is the whole reason he goes by John Ambrose? I mean, that’s romantic stuff. Even I, who pledged myself to Team Peter while reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before back in 2014, have to hand it to actor Jordan Fisher—his John Ambrose is positively dreamy. I’d read Harry Potter with him anytime, so I can’t blame Lara Jean for being genuinely torn between him and Peter.
Peter reluctantly takes back his necklace. ?
I couldn’t have imagined a better song pairing for this moment in the movie than “Moral of the Story” by Ashe. As I watched Lara Jean and Peter standing in front of the jellyfish display at the aquarium, I could feel the squeeze of my heart and the prickle of tears behind my eyes. It brought back those feelings of my own first breakup, and I just wanted to give LJ a hug through the screen.
In this first conversation post–break up, you can see the devastation on both of their faces as they realize this is truly the end. At the point where LJ asks Peter if he wants to take back the necklace that he gave her on Valentine’s Day, I was screaming in my head: “No, Peter! Tell her she can keep it.” It’s clear in that scene that he isn’t ready to let her go, but he steps away from her with the necklace in hand, to give her what she needs in that moment: space. As Heather and I sat in the theater during the premiere screening, we heard someone in the audience exclaim, “I feel it in my soul,” and we completely agreed.
Lara Jean wows John Ambrose—and all of us.
What’s a teen rom-com without a dramatic dress reveal?! It’s basically required. Not that I mind, because Lara Jean has impeccable fashion sense and her wardrobe—including the stunning ball gown fit for a princess that her friend Stormy gives her to wear to the Star Ball—deserves to be admired. John Ambrose, smart man that he is, displays an appropriate degree of awe at the sight of her at the top of the stairs, which is another point in his favor as a love interest. I’m curious why the filmmakers went with the Star Ball theme over the USO-inspired dance from the book, but even if it was only so that Lara Jean had an excuse to wear that formal gown…I get it.
Peter says: “You said you don’t like driving in the snow.” We expire.
I didn’t approach the movie with too many expectations about how specific scenes should have been adapted to the screen. Jenny Han’s trilogy already gave me everything I needed; the Netflix films are just gravy. Having said that, I’ll admit that I really, really wanted to see Noah Centineo deliver Peter K.’s romance-novel worthy declaration to Lara Jean: “You can break my heart. Do whatever you want with it.” And boy, did he deliver!
I nearly jumped out of my seat with glee at how adorably earnest that moment turned out, just like I’d always pictured their pivotal makeup scene at the very end of the second book. The movie didn’t stop there, though, oh, no. They actually upped the sweetness of an already fan-favorite scene by having Peter show up at the Snow Ball (rather than having him find Lara Jean at the tree house like in the book) with an offer to drive her home because, as he puts it: “You said you don’t like driving in the snow.” Basically, the movie gave us book fans exactly what we wanted AND MORE!
This post was originally published on GetLiterary.com.