Susan Johnson’s adaptation of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before proved to be a sleeper hit for Netflix in 2018 – surprisingly well done, it quickly climbed its way to the higher levels of the streaming service’s teen fare. But the ending promised more romantic trouble for Lara Jean Covey, and that’s exactly what she gets in the mild-mannered follow-up P.S I Still Love You.
A quick recap brings the uninitiated up to speed on Covey (Lana Condor)’s love-life – taking the “fake it till you make it” mantra very seriously, starting out her first, real relationship with heartthrob and previously fake boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). They enjoy a very Hollywood-ised, perfect first date together and all seems well for the lovebirds. Except, it’s not, and Lara Jean has to deal with the crushing anxiety of being in a relationship with one of the hottest, most fancied boys in school – and one with a bitterly jealous ex-girlfriend. To complicate matters further, her former “true love” John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) is back in town; he has responded to 11 year-old Lara Jean’s love letter, and the pair realise they have old feelings creeping back up.
Much like its predecessor, P.S I Still Love You goes down like a spoonful of sugar – full of the awkward whimsy and cheesiness we’ve become acclimated to with this genre. What makes this sequel feel superior to similar rom-coms out there however, and the same thing that made the original To All the Boys so delightful, is the spirit that permeates every scene. This may be as twee a Netflix original as they come, but there’s undeniable heart underpinning it all that’s hard not to get swept up by – a la John Hughes or those offbeat teen films of old. If the original was about better understanding high school feelings, P.S I Still Love is about navigating their complexity and fragility, whilst trying not to trip in the minefield that can be a first relationship. The script, from Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe, approaches this with a great deal of wisdom; if nothing else, it acts as a good primer for the demographic that will likely be experiencing similar feelings.
Whilst the film can fall victim to cliché and convention, there’s enough charm keeping it afloat; Condor, once again, excels in the leading role as the bookish Covey – a magnetic turn for this likeable, empathetic character that grounds her with a much needed sense of authenticity. Fisher and Centineo also do well in their roles, getting some of the film’s best scenes – involving their butting of heads in this love-triangle of sorts. Ambrose makes for a memorable new addition, and a competent romantic rival to shaggy-haired Kavisnky, and offers plenty of great moments. Naturally, the script is a tad heightened and can suffer from a lot of the genre trappings, like sugary idealism and some cringe-worthy dialogue; it takes a little while to really get back into the rhythm of it all but when it does, it makes for a worthy sequel to what’s quickly becoming a solid series.
Arriving just in time for Valentine’s Day, P.S I Still Love You is a great date night pick; whilst not as heart-melting as its predecessor, it has enough charm up its sleeve to make for an investing couple of hours. With the third film already filmed and set for release later this year, we can’t wait to find out how Lara Jean’s love-life is going and see what else this franchise has in store for us.
To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You is streaming on Netflix now.