We’re only five weeks into 2020, but I’m calling it now. To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You will go down as the year’s most charming movie.
Michael Fimognari takes over for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before director Susan Johnson without skipping a beat and delivers 80 minutes of pure pleasure. To All the Boys’ fans can expect to experience the same warm and fuzzy feelings they felt watching the first film. And even if delightful rom-coms aren’t your thing, I recommend watching this movie with an open mind; Lara Jean and the gang may still work their magic on you.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of a teenage girl named Lara Jean (Lana Condor) who is a romantic at heart, despite never being in a relationship. When a handful of her love letters to potential boyfriends accidentlly get sent out, Lara Jean ends up on her crushes’ radars. By the end of the film she falls for the hunky Peter (Noah Centineo) and the cute couple embarks on her first “real” relationship.
P.S. I Still Love You begins with Lara Jean and Peter smitten with each other as they experience their first “real date.” Everything feels amazing in their lovey-dovey world… at first. They’re both kind, funny and considerate while finding each other super hot. So, it seems like life couldn’t be better. But insecurities start creeping into Lara Jean’s head.
Lara Jean hasn’t had a boyfriend before, while Peter has plenty of experience with the ladies. Now that Lara Jean is in an actual relationship, she’s not sure how to act. And making matters worse, she keeps comparing herself to Peter’s ex-girlfriend.
As if that’s not enough, another one of Lara Jean’s letters reached their destination. Her former middle-school crush John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher) shows up in town, and he’s as dreamy as ever. Aside from being smoking hot, he seems like a better fit for Lara Jean, who is now off the market. What’s a girl to do?
Lana Condor is a star. It speaks to her radiant presence that this series, with its fluffy YA premise, could become a pop culture phenomenon with such a broad appeal. It helps that Condor and Centineo have ungodly chemistry. Watching them on-screen together is like watching puppy dogs wrestle beneath a rainbow. It’s impossible not to root for them. So, it’s a small miracle that John Ambrose enters into the story without coming off like a villain.
To All the Boys works as a form of escapism and wish fulfillment. Who wouldn’t want to trade places with one of these characters for a day? Their problems seem minor compared to what we face in the real world. To All the Boys has a clear sense of stakes because it’s obvious what Lara Jean wants and needs from the start. Things get a bit murkier in this second installment. And dare I say it, even more adult.
P.S. I Still Love You’s villain isn’t the hunky John Ambrose or Peter’s bitter ex. The real villain is self-doubt. Lara Jean is a natural romantic and loves unconditionally. Loving with all your heart comes easy when you treat love as an ideal. Since Lara Jean has never been in a relationship, she only understands the concept of romantic love because she has never put it into practice.
One of my favourite parts of these movies is Lara Jean’s relationship with her kid sis Kitty (Anna Cathcart). As much as they love each other, their love isn’t always smooth sailing. They can bicker, misunderstand one another and betray each others’ trust. Romantic love works the same way. After all, it’s called a relationship. It means one person in relation to another. And one thing we learn as we get older is that we all bring baggage into our relationships.
P.S. I Still Love You has Lara Jean transition from cherishing love as a romantic ideal to getting an up-close look. It’s like admiring someone’s sexy profile picture and abruptly having the filters turned off. Lara Jean must confront the reality that Peter doesn’t solely define himself as a boyfriend. He’s a person with his own wants, needs and history who is also her boyfriend. It turns out, a person is much harder to love than an ideal. Everybody farts – deal with it. But what’s scariest is that a person is harder to please. And it’s these complicated feelings that Lara Jean struggles to make sense of.
We all have doubts and insecurities. Our own flaws blare out to us like sirens, as we measure ourselves against how we perceive our lovers. As you get to know someone, you lower them off that initial pedestal, as your own flaws feel less embarrassing. This is a long way of saying that as we date, we change our unrealistic expectations for others and ourselves. This revelation sounds obvious, but it’s an issue we all deal with as we bumble our way through our first meaningful relationships.
These films could stick to a simple love triangle format and do just fine. But I respect them for having a greater ambition. The film’s screenwriters Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills are willing to dig below the genre’s traditionally cheery surface. And in doing so, they explore tougher themes that resonate with real people (some of whom are well out of the series’ target demographic). P.S. I Still Love You maintains the previous film’s glossy teen-movie sheen while exploring the messier and more relatable aspects of relationships. Heading into my screening, the last thing I expected was to watch this series grow up in front of my eyes.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You gives its audience exactly what they want. More adorable characters. More will-they-or-won’t-they drama. And most importantly, more Lana Condor. This solid sequel doesn’t track like some tacked-on money grab; it feels like a natural extension to Lara Jean’s story. Best of all, it leaves the door wide open for the third installment, To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean.