Viewers swooned, clutched at their hearts and giggled in delight at the awkward albeit adorable courtship between good girl Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and school hunk Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo).
It was hailed for being a win for teen romances, a win for screen representation (Lara Jean is Korean-American) and a win for Condor and Centineo whose Instagram followings catapulted into the stratosphere.
So yes, a sequel was inevitable – especially when the book on which To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before already has two further instalments.
Lara Jean and Peter, who spent the first movie careering towards that kiss on the track field, are now officially a couple. Getting ready for their first date at a fancy restaurant, Lara Jean opines in voiceover that her life is now like an 80s teen movie.
But even a coupling as cute as Lara Jean and Peter can’t avoid running into trouble – and it really doesn’t take long.
In one of the first scenes, Lara Jean tells Peter her wish is for them to stay together, and he’s baffled that she would already be thinking about them breaking up so early in the game.
It points to that classic teen insecurity where you can’t believe that the person you crushed on for so long wants to be with you. So Lara Jean lets it get in her head, wondering if every first she and Peter have – date, kiss, Valentine’s – is as good as what Peter shared with his ex, Jen.
Then, one of the other boys she loved before (if you remember, Lara Jean’s sister Kitty sent out a bunch of letters Lara Jean had written to her former crushes), John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) writes back.
Flush with curiosity and long-dormant emotions, Lara Jean is shocked when John Ambrose, who goes to another school, is a fellow volunteer at the opulent retirement village she also spends her after-school hours at.
The sensitive John Ambrose seems like a better match for Lara Jean than the last pizza slice-eating Peter. From having no boys in her life, now she has two. That, my friends, is what we call a love triangle.
To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You is more romantic drama than rom-com – if it’s meant to be the latter, it forgot to bring the funny. But for ardent fans of the original, that’s not really going to be a problem.
What is a problem is that this sequel separates the two romantic leads – Lara Jean and Peter – for the bulk of the movie, infrequently bringing them together in the same scenes.
If you’re really invested in their relationship, you’re going to want more of that cuddle time, especially given the palpable screen chemistry between Condor and Centineo. It’s an inexplicable choice.
P.S. I Still Love You isn’t as fresh or winning as its predecessor, and it spends so much time in Lara Jean’s head that if you don’t have the patience for teen overthinking, you might find your own mind wandering … to your phone.
Her neuroses about the boys in her life feels authentic, because teens really do obsess over insignificant things, but if you’re not a young person, it’s exhausting and hard to relate.
There’s something about the balance between the plot momentum and emotional hand-wringing that just tips the wrong way.
It’s not teen angst but the earnest movie can feel a little generically too sweet at times.
Having said that, after the success of the first film, P.S. I Still Love You clearly had a budget boost because the solidly directed movie has impressive production values.
In particular, the retirement home is an art deco wonder with its plush velvet chairs and lounges in jewel tones, and the peacock feathers strewn about Stormy’s (Holland Taylor) room. No matter what’s happening with the story, there’s always something beautiful to look at on screen.
And Condor and Centineo, plus newcomer Fisher, are all very charismatic. The plot may be predictable but romance movies rarely deviate from the tried-and-true formula.
Obsessed fans will still find plenty to like in this perfectly fine sequel, just being plunged back into that world will be reward enough, but it’s a shame it couldn’t recapture the magic of the original.
To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You is available to stream on Netflix from Wednesday, February 12 at 7pm AEDT
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