“I promise not to break your heart.”
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You pretty much picks up right where Netflix’s smash hit predecessor left off. Lara Jean (Lana Condor) is finally official and going steady with Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), their once forged relationship now a young romance in the honeymoon phase. He takes the overthinking LJ on her first real date, and like most young men, Peter easily falls into jealous habits. The two are drawn to one another but don’t always exist on the same wavelength, each wondering if they’re worthy of the other’s affection. That’s typical in a new high-school romance, but those very insecurities can make an already challenging part of life all the more confusing. Is this love or like? Watch and see.
I’ve always been a sucker for the classic love triangle, and P.S I Still Love You gets there when Lara Jean receives a letter from one of the five original recipients she wrote to when she was younger, all of them postmarked and shipped by her sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) in the first film. He’s John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), a smart, handsome young man who was LJ’s first true crush. They meet again, in the random way good romantic comedies suffuse the right moments with slightly convincing serendipity. There are sparks. But she’s already fanned the flames with Peter, although some petty arguments and true misunderstandings let the kindling turn close to ashes. What will she or should she do? Lara Jean gets to be the navigator, the leading lady and the head writer of her own love story. That’s a powerful sentiment in a movie so simple on the surface.
While it’s not as heartwarming or romantic as 2018’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, this more challenging sequel really benefits from having the same crew behind the scenes. Director Michael Fimognari helps maintain a consistent tone, and the screenwriters breathe new life into their adaptation of Jenny Han’s YA novel without cheapening or abandoning the source material. The performances are solid all around, especially from Condor, a young and still relatively new actress who’s already able to speak through her eyes. She has such a bright future ahead of her. One can’t ignore the charisma of Noah Centineo either. He can sound so phony at times, but that’s just his voice, and he embraces it in a way that most teen heartthrobs would try to alter to seem more commercial. The words here are familiar yet the handwriting is all its own.
I’m starting to think that the reason I admire this series so much is because it intrinsically understands – and daringly dives into – the kind of romances found in cheap novels and so many lazy movies. But this is a slightly elevated depiction worthy of being taken seriously. It’s the kind of movie young people will likely latch onto with reckless abandon and hopeful possibility, and one that will help older generations remember lost love with longing eyes and a grin full of recollection. P.S. I Still Love You is a more than satisfying post-script setting up the last film in this Netflix series, and it’s a modern approach to the painstaking, antiquated art of the love letter. Combine everything with the standout, stellar soundtrack and you have a current rom-com that’s both a reinvention of and an homage to all the stories it’s loved before.
“Unbreak it, if that’s what you want.”
Rating: 3.5 out 5