Warning: This article contains spoilers.
The writers of “To All the Boys P.S. I Still Love You” have done it once again. They’ve re-captured the attention of my hopeless romantic heart from the first movie and had me sitting on the edge of my seat with the new love triangle between Lara Jean, Peter, and John Ambrose. This innocent love story at first seemed like just your typical shallow teenage-romance without a a more profound message. But if you pay close-attention, they’re actually deepening the modern concept of ‘love’. Here are three ways the movie does this:
Love is more than Eros
Nowadays, most movies and TV shows will have at least one sex scene, even if it doesn’t add to the plot. This makes it seem that love always has to lead to sex. But sexual desire is only one type of love. The Greeks call this type of sexual or passionate love eros. The Greeks actually have several words for the 7 different kinds of love. Each of them helps expand the notion of love beyond one limited definition. This expansive notion of love is present in the movie, proven by the absence of any sex scene. It even shows Lara Jean pausing during an intimate moment with Peter to make it clear that she doesn’t want to rush their relationship. Both agree that they don’t want to rush and Peter even says that there is no void in his life because of the lack of sex.
Ultimately, eros is one of the lower kinds of love. Not in the sense that it is bad, but that it should lead to the other types of love and help strengthen these other loves, particularly storge and/or philia.
Love involves Risk
Early on in the movie, Lara Jean and Peter make promises at the beginning of their relationship “not to break each other’s hearts.” At that moment in the movie, I immediately said, “that’s SO naive.” And while most of us may agree that it’s common knowledge that love will bring pain, many people in the world do in fact have a fear of heart-break. Some even let those fears prevent them from taking the leap to love. This doesn’t just apply to romantic love. Some people fear opening up to others because they fear not being heard, understood, or instead being made fun-of. Love means sharing of ourselves. And that can be a scary thing to do.
Lara Jean ran away at the first moment of pain when she thought that Peter cheated on her. But it is revealed that he was faithful. After finding out the truth, Lara Jean asks her friend Stormy what will happen if Peter doesn’t want Lara Jean back. Stormy replies, “Then it’ll hurt like hell.” Lara Jean accepts the risk of being hurt again. And to our surprise, Peter accepts the same risk saying “break my heart into a thousand pieces.” Their relationship begins again only after they both know that love involves the possibility of getting their hearts broken.
Love needs Humility
At the ending scene, as Lara Jean and Peter kiss and start floating (yes, actually floating in the air), the song “About Love” by MARINA starts playing. The lyrics are oddly perfect:
I don’t really know a lot about love
A lot about love, a lot about love
But you’re in my head, you’re in my blood
And it feels so good, it hurts so much
The story ends with Lara Jean saying that she has only just begun her relationship with Peter. She’s still new to romantic love. Now while she doesn’t say it herself, the lyrics of the song playing in the background say it for her. She doesn’t know a lot about love. She is bound to run into trouble and pain again, but at least now she knows that love is worth the risk.
Shortly put, what does “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” teach us about love? It helps us think about what it means to love fully. The world provides countless examples of superficial love. We don’t need to imitate them. Instead, like Lara Jean we can accept that we don’t fully understand love. It’s more than physical, it’s going to involve taking a risk, and requires humility. On this side of Heaven, we won’t ever fully understand what love is, but through our relationships with others, we can grow in that understanding every day.