Netflix’s To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is a sweet romcom that mixes in a healthy dose of reality to its soft daydreams of happily ever after.
When we last left Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky, the two were sharing their first real kiss as a couple on the Adler High lacrosse field during the golden hour glow of a soft sunrise.
It was the perfect ending to a dreamy and warm romcom, one which made us all fall in love with the love between soft jock Peter Kavinsky and delightful daydream enthusiast Lara Jean Song Covey.
2018’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was an instant hit with basically everyone — and for good reason. Lana Condor was absolutely perfect as Lara Jean, sweet and charming and kind without ever feeling flat, and with a voice and sense of comedic timing that I still think is underrated. Noah Centineo’s performance as the tender-hearted jock Peter Kavinsky instantly stole everyone’s hearts, and his chemistry with Lana Condor is one-of-a-kind and so easy to root for.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was the kind of soft and sweet film that feels rare in a world that increasingly pushes towards cynicism and grimness masquerading as realism, as earnest in its belief in happily ever after as Lara Jean is about the magic of love. It followed all the expected beats of a romantic-comedy, and ended just where we expected and wanted it to — with the big damn kiss and the promise of happily ever after.
And that is precisely where the sequel, P.S. I Still Love you, picks up.
There’s still the same kind of tender-hearted dreaminess to the film, but it’s filtered through a more grounded lens. It’s the bright glare of the morning sun after the starry dream date; the messy house and glitter-covered floor you wake up to after your magical New Year’s Eve kiss.
It starts where most romcoms end: Day one of happily ever after.
P.S. I Still Love You isn’t as dreamy as To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, but that’s because it isn’t the same movie as To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. That first film was about the heady rush of falling in love — the awkward lows and the sweetest of highs. This second film is about being in love, and how that requires a fair bit of tenderness and love, of course, but also a good amount of work.
It’s not the type of romance we’re used to seeing on screen, and perhaps, you may think, for good reason. Romance films are, after all, a fantasy, just in the same way that action franchises or superhero films are fantasies. We aren’t meant to believe that they might actually exist or occur in the real world, but to lose ourselves in a world and in a story that’s kinder or better or softer than the one we live in.
The paths that these films follow may be well-trodden, but that predictability is a part of what makes them so comforting. We know that a romcom will go from point a to point b to point c is the same way we’ve seen time and time, we know that we’ll end up with a big damn kiss and a warm feeling in our heart. What keeps us coming back is how the movie gets there and how well it develops its characters so that we actually care about them getting to that happily ever after.
And make no mistake, P.S. I Still Love You still takes its characters from point a to point b to point c. It still ends with a big damn kiss and — in my opinion, at least — a warm feeling in your heart. But the journey in getting there is a little more fraught than the first film, a little more dipped in real world struggles than the more obvious warm fantasy of the first film.
That’s not going to be for everyone, especially not for those who want to indulge in the fantasy of romcoms. And I totally understand that and find it a valid perspective.
However, as a film, a more fraught journey was necessary, because a sequel couldn’t just rehash all the same themes and moments and storylines from the first film. There had to be growth of some sort for the story and the characters and growth sometimes — often, really — is a bumpy road filled with roadblocks, and is confusing, strange and often painful.
P.S. I Still Love You has been marketed as a film about a love triangle — and it is, somewhat.
On the one hand, you have Peter Kavinsky, the world’s most tender-hearted jock who is clearly head over heels in love with Lara Jean. The two bring their chemistry from the first film into this second film, and even though the movie takes pains to show that the two don’t have all that much in common, it’s obvious that they both really care for and value one another.
On the other hand, you have John Ambrose McClaren, another recipient of Lara Jean’s letters and a boy who seems to share much more in common with her. It’s easy with him in a way that it sometimes isn’t with Peter, and the two share an easy rapport with one another that could easily turn into just as great of a romance as the one she has with Peter.
Still, while the film presents these two choices to Lara Jean, what it’s really doing is building on the theme of the first film just like I hoped it would. The first movie was about Lara Jean falling in love with Peter, but it was also about Lara Jean learning to step out from her fantasy world and become an active participant in her own life — to choose reality over fantasy.
That’s the choice here as well. Peter might be an imperfect match for Lara Jean, but he’s real and we see the ways in which the two of them work despite their differences. John Ambrose, for all that he looks great on paper and gets along with Lara Jean, represents a fantasy, a daydream, a what if.
Relationships — no matter how good, no matter how compatible you may be — will always have a what if. They’ll probably have many what ifs. The old adage of the grass seeming greener on the other side may be a cliche, but it’s a cliche because it’s a thought people have over and over again. P.S. I Still Love You is the story about what is versus what ifs, and how the ever after part of love can be difficult and is filled with difficult choices.
That the film shows us Lara Jean living out this reality and actively choosing what she wants when she has all the choices and knowledge in front of her is the exact story I was hoping for, even if I can admit that it’s not as softly romantic as the first.
Whether I think this is the right decision or not doesn’t really matter, because — unlike the book — the movie makes Lara Jean’s choice believable for her in this moment and in this storyline.
(It’s another article for another day as to whether I think her decision will bear out through and past college.)
The performances in the film are just as great as the first, with Lana Condor and Noah Centineo’s chemistry once again leaping off the screen and making you hope that they’re the one high school couple that makes it (there’s always at least one!).
Jordan Fisher brings just the right amount of geeky sweetness and earnest kindness to John Ambrose, painting him as an alternative to Centineo’s soft jock without making him the aggressive opposite to him. Just as with all great love triangles, the film does a great job fleshing both of Lara Jean’s prospective choices out and making us understand their appeal to Lara Jean.
The rest of Lara Jean’s supporting cast of characters take more of a backseat in this film though, and if I had to pick my biggest criticism I’d have to say that I wished we got more time with Kitty and Margot, as well as her bff crew of Lucas and Chris. Lana Condor is just such a talented actress who has chemistry and charisma to share, and I just want to see her share it with everyone.
I can also understand the perspective that Lara Jean made the wrong choice — which is actually my belief about the book but one that doesn’t make its way to the movie adaptation.
Part of that is because the film does such a fantastic job smoothing out the rougher edges to Peter’s character and making him a truly ideal and dreamy high school boyfriend. Also, like I mentioned earlier, I think that Lara Jean’s choice in the movie makes sense given who she is and where she is in her life (though I do wish that there was a little bit more explanation or elaboration, as I think it was made rather abruptly).
I also like her choice in terms of how the film framed her journey, and how it allowed her to grow as a character.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You won’t make you feel the exact same way that To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before did, but only because that magical, dreamy feel of first love is so singular in nature. However, P.S. I Still Love You will still make you feel soft and warm, it will still make you squee with delight, it will still make you wish that a fictional boy was real and that Lara Jean could be your best friend.
It’s the fantastic follow-up to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and the perfect film to cuddle up with your significant other or all your best friends and fall in love with love all over again.