Theatrical Release poster [fair use]
In 2018, Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (directed by Susan Johnson and based on the book by Jenny Han), was a hit. Hungry for a charming, intriguing teen romance movie, everyone flocked to this film, even (yes, I’ll admit it) me. I’m not someone to watch a lot of rom-com movies, let alone teen rom-com movies, but I had to watch this one, as I overheard people saying, “I never watch teen romance movies, but To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before . . . I watched that one twice.”
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which is currently streaming for free on Netflix, was a sensational, carefree summer movie. Even months after its release, I heard about it everywhere: class, Instagram, extracurriculars, Youtube, and the hallways. When watching a teen rom-com, you need to know that you aren’t going to get a cinematic masterpiece or a truly genius film—they’re just a light and easy watch. In fact, the original To All the Boys was such an easy-going and fun movie that nearly 50% of its viewers watched it twice.
The movie was sweet, playful, and it made for a genuinely entertaining film. However, the same can’t exactly be said about its sequel: To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. Don’t get me wrong, the sequel was good, but it didn’t have the same spark, it wasn’t as engaging, and it didn’t have that same charming sweetness as its predecessor.
Netflix’s To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (directed by Michael Fimognari and based on the book by Jenny Han) picks up shortly after the first To All the Boys. Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), in her first-ever relationship, is officially dating Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). She seems to be constantly consumed with her anxiety regarding what’s expected of her and how Peter has already done all of her relationship “firsts” with his ex-girlfriend, Genevieve (Emilija Baranac). To complicate Lara Jean’s already tricky situation, one of the recipients of her love letters from the first movie, John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), who is essentially the male version of Lara Jean, unexpectedly shows up to volunteer at a lavish old folks’ home where Lara Jean is also volunteering. Then, classic teenage rom-com confusion and complications ensue.
Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship in the first movie worked as well as it did because of the small, quirky moments that made it feel authentic and sweet, but those moments don’t really exist in P.S. I Still Love You. The closest you get to this is when Peter tells Lara Jean she has beautiful handwriting before they flow into a somewhat cliche montage of paper lanterns floating through the sky. This makes it hard for me to feel the same connection to their relationship as the last movie, and it even allows me root for Lara Jean to leave Peter at one point in the movie.
Despite this, Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship can mostly get by on the strength of the nostalgia for the first movie, but John Ambrose, however, has to start from scratch. Because of this, John Ambrose’s scenes lack the tender and genuine feeling that made the central relationship in the last movie so good, and instead, his scenes carry a strong aroma of cliche; I even found myself rolling my eyes during a few of his scenes with Lara Jean. Whether it was John Ambrose and Lara Jean playing in the faux snow, or when Lara Jean finds John Ambrose majestically playing the piano only for her to sit down next to him and be nursed by him, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and say, “C’mon, really?”
Despite the cliches of his character, I found myself at times rooting for him because of his portrayal as a sort of underdog, if you will. This ability to always have someone to root for, whether it be Lara Jean, Peter, John Ambrose, or even Lara Jean’s dad, is something this franchise does incredibly well.
This movie also goes deeper into the character of Peter’s ex-girlfriend, Genevieve. In the first movie, she was a one-dimensional villain, but she returns in this movie as a character with more depth; we learn about her personal struggles and her long-dormant friendship with Lara Jean.
The entire movie featured fairly good acting, but special props to Lana Condor, who, even more so than the first movie, put this film on her back and carried it from start to finish. This movie doesn’t work without casting the perfect person for the role of Lara Jean, and they successfully found that perfect person in Lana Condor. She once again was able to use body and facial expressions to convey emotions unlike most lead actresses in other rom-coms. She also plays very well off of her chemistry with Noah Centineo, and despite being 22, exudes the teenage awkwardness and nervousness that makes her so relatable to the film’s target audience: teens.
Not only was the acting engaging, but the aesthetic was actually visually pleasing. Everything from the retirement home, to the festive school hallways, to Lara Jean’s bedroom feels like a fantasy. As the Covey family is celebrating “fakesgiving,” Peter even points out that all of the food on the table looks so perfect that it could be out of a magazine. The vibrant visuals and trendy music soundtrack created a sunny, vibrant world that evokes emotions of happiness, nostalgia, and fantasy.
However, this movie is…well…sort of simple. Unlike the original To All the Boys, it was fairly easy to predict what was going to happen next and where the storyline was taking us. I would’ve liked to see a little more, whether it was more of that magic that made the first film so memorable, more depth to characters such as John Ambrose, or just more complications for the relationships in the film that would’ve switched up the simplicity.
While this movie didn’t live up to its predecessor, it was fairly enjoyable and light-hearted, making for a great weekend watch. However, I recommend you see the original To All the Boys before watching To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You. But the trilogy isn’t over yet, as the final film is allegedly in the works at Netflix. Hopefully, that film provides a sweet, satisfying end to this unexpectedly entertaining franchise.