The first two To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Netflix films avoid teaching the importance of confidence and instead disguise unhealthy relationships in a lighthearted, feel-good romance flick, so no, I don’t want to watch the third installment.
In the first movie of the series, high schoolers Laura Jean and Peter Kavinsky agree to date because Peter wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous, while Laura clearly has feelings for him. Although the two end up developing real feelings for each other and falling in love, this encourages the idea that starting a relationship (regardless of whether it is fake) for reasons other than genuine interest will result in a fairytale ending. It also makes them both look incredibly desperate and insecure, and from Laura’s perspective, it encourages the idea that it’s okay to be in a relationship even if you aren’t truly valued and appreciated.
In the sequel, Laura starts volunteering at a retirement home and finds that one of her old crushes, John Ambrose, volunteers there, too. Laura clearly feels some type of way about him despite her commitment to Peter. Additionally, she is constantly insecure about their relationship, and she can’t stop comparing herself to Peter’s ex-girlfriend. Instead of realizing how her own insecurity is affecting her relationship and personal happiness, she ignores it and continues to be rather emotionally disloyal to Peter.
A misunderstanding leads Laura to abruptly dump him, and she then kisses John at a volunteer event, only to decide that she actually isn’t into John and wants to get back with Peter. After being dumped with no explanation, Peter appears at the doorstep ready to drive her home, and they again confess their love. While this summary is simplified, even with the context of the movie, it still feels like the writers want you to learn that the best way to gain confidence in yourself and in your relationship is to go kiss someone else, and only then will you know for sure.
While I am absolutely no relationship expert, I believe that a sense of self-worth and confidence is critical to being in a healthy relationship. A huge part of growing up and discovering who you are is overcoming insecurities, and not only did these movies completely avoid teaching this lesson; they make the messy and unstable love story between Peter and Laura seem “perfectly imperfect,” when it’s actually just unhealthy.
Although very few high school romance movies get it right, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before somehow captured the hearts of many while getting it incredibly wrong.