Laura Jean (Laura Condor) is starting to get the hang of this whole girlfriend thing and settling into a nice groove with Peter (Noah Centineo).
There is the pesky matter of that final love letter that got sent out to Laura Jean’s middle school crush, John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher, Until Dawn), who’s more than happy to reciprocate that interest. Suddenly conflicted, Laura Jean has to deal with her old feelings as she spends more time with John Ambrose just as cracks start forming with her relationship with Peter.
It’s immensely refreshing to see the black guy as a viable romantic lead and on paper checking more of the boxes as a better fit for Laura Jean.
Sure their thinking might be a little naive, but I appreciate the manner in which screenwriters Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe write the high schoolers as genuinely decent and thoughtful people. They don’t fit into the cliche portrayal of teens who are glued to their devices and are far more nuanced. There’s a few inconsistencies from the first film, which viewers will likely catch easily if they have a marathon session, but the changes are for the better.
I also liked how the supporting cast was utilized from Laura Jean’s gay friend Lucas (Trezzo Mahoro) not being treated like a comedic stereotype to fellow jock Trevor (Ross Butler, Shazam) unabashedly singing along to the Backstreet Boys.
Another commendable aspect of the film are the scenes celebrating Laura Jean’s Korean heritage. It’s one thing to have a diverse cast and write them in a colorblind manner, but to actually focus on moments specific to another culture is impressive.
The mature manner in how Laura Jean and her sister, Kitty (Anna Cathcart) reacted to their father’s (John Corbett) interest in a neighbor (Sarayu Blue) was also nicely handled. And I loved the vibrant portrayal of life at a senior community best embodied by Laura Jean’s new pal, Stormy (Holland Taylor).
This is a teen romance film so it’s only going to get so deep and complicated, but the script never feels like it’s dumbed down. Instead there’s more of a sweeter nature to the character behaviors that’s appreciated.
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All around the cast delivered exceptional performances. Condor and Centineo have adorably sweet chemistry and Fisher is a strong new addition to properly establish the Team Peter and Team John Ambrose dynamic. If Twilight taught us anything, the nice guy longtime friend has an uphill battle.
Director Michael Fimognari, who handles the cinematography on the first film, finds some inspired ways to set up some picturesque moments that play into that up and down feeling of first love.
This is a well done and sweet sequel to a film that was so enjoyable it begged for a sequel. Hopefully this won’t be the last romantic adventure with Laura Jean and her crew.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix