|To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You / Netflix
Lara Jean Song Covey's (Lana Condor) secret love letters that were never supposed to see the light of day end up in the mailboxes of her old school crushes. To save face from embarrassment and coming in-between her sister and an ex (to whom one of the letters is sent), Lara and one of her crushes Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) start a fake relationship. Their attempts at keeping up with appearances while getting to know each other personally gives way to real feelings.
We last left the couple on the lacrosse field optimistically declaring their feelings for each other, but going back to Adler High School behind is tougher than they think. After risking it all and willing to take a chance on love, Lara Jean and Peter are no longer pretending to be a couple - they're the real deal. As Lara struggles to navigate her first real relationship, a fellow love letter recipient John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher) springs back into her life, leaving Lara to question what being in love truly means.
Where To All the Boys I've Loved Before brought us along on the journey of Lara Jean's struggle to trust giving her heart over to a real relationship instead of a fantasy, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You brings into view the expectations Lara places on herself as she falls in genuine love for the first time. Both Lara Jean and Peter have to confront insecurities from past relationships (namely with Peter's ex Genevieve played by Emilija Baranac) - they must learn to shed the restrictions of their fake-ship and invest in each other wholeheartedly.
As perfect as love stories might read on the page, it's an entirely different challenge to experience them in real life. Offering a perfect mix of rom-rom chemistry and grounded, relateable performances, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo pick up where they left off, vibing off of each other as the characters gradually grow up. As the beating heart of the series, Lana Condor once again brings humor, heartbreak, and self-awareness to her role as Lana. She perfectly fulfills the role of the conflicted and personable heroine we don't often see in romantic comedies anymore. Next to Centineo's Peter whose energy is as contagious as over, Jordan Fisher's John steps into the role of the sensitive and artistic dreamboat who might steal Lara's heart with ease.
Despite the first film's release two years ago, it doesn't feel as if time has passed at all between the two films. The sequel makes a few major switches behind the scenes - the director's chair passes from Susan Johnson to Micha Fimognari, while Sofia Alvarez adds J. Mills Goodloe as her screenplay partner. From her splendidly bold and colorful costumes to cinematography by, Lara Jean's world takes us back to the nostalgic sphere of rom-coms that sweep us off our feet. Also serving as cinematographer, Fimognari keeps the visual palette from the first film, giving the trilogy a consistent atmosphere and look that you can't get enough of.
For the most part, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You recaptures the same charm as its set-up, revitalizing the nostalgia for rom-coms of the past. It has more adorable characters, gorgeous costumes, and tender mishaps between the letter-writing love triangle that'll make you swoon as rom-coms should do. At times, it also expands its missteps, namely failing to let Lara Jean explore life outside of the confines of her view about and by Peter or John Ambrose. While the first film explored the similarities between Lara and Peter but balanced out the hiccups of their unorthodox arrangement, the consistent string of miscommunication and mix-ups limits the foundation of who they are individually. Some issues throughout their relationship, particularly Peter's inability to look past Genevieve, never exactly feels resolved or that the main relationship grows as much as it could. Subsequently, the cast's chemistry makes the story work even in its strongest and weakest moments where you can't help but feel like rooting for them.
Ringing in the old days of John Hughes's movies, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is a rare gem, continuing the magic of the first flick and becoming a solid follow-up for a trilogy. Led by effervescent star Lana Condor, the film offers an enthusiastic and heartwarming diversity to a round of complex and endearing characters. The story reminds us of what it's like to fall in love and the journey of learning to communicate and be vulnerable in a relationship. As a romantic-comedy series for a new generation, the charm and joy from the mini-franchise leaves us wanting more for its final and third installment.
Have you seen To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You? What did you think?
Please Note: I was provided with a screener in order to watch this film. To All The Boys I've Loved Before and To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is currently available to watch on Netflix.