To All The Boys: PS I Still Love You review: Netflix sequel is an easy watch, but don't expect a modern-day romance
Based on Jenny Han’s book trilogy, To All The Boys: Ps I Still Love You starts off where the first film ended: with Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky as a couple
[some spoilers ahead]
As a 31-year-old, married feminist, I was rooting for Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), from Netflix's To All The Boys... series to have some fun. She's 16 years old, and has no business getting bogged down by the politics of love and fidelity. *cough*auntyalert*cough*
But then I realised, To All The Boys: PS I Still Love You — the sequel to the charming 2018 Netflix film To All The Boys I've Loved Before — is a teen-heavy film, meant for a teenage audience, and releasing on Valentine's Day. So, the romantic tropes — including but not limited to walks in nature (of any kind, really: snow, winter, rain, all of it?); slow, dreamy shots of the lead pair staring at each other with a love ballad playing in the background; romantically-lit and well-choreographed kissing shots; vibrant colours establishing the tone of every scene that is going somewhere; a ballroom/school dance sequence with a fluffy dress and old-school makeup that leads to a dramatic climax — are plenty.
Not that there's anything wrong with a good old rom-com. Nothing spells global popularity like a love story and the first film, one of Netflix's most popular originals, temporarily brought back the glory of a romantic movie at a time when the genre is going through a bit of a hiccup. Netflix quickly announced a sequel and a third film in succession, and they've opened up their subscriptions for anyone who wants to watch To All The Boys: Ps I Love You, in a bid to get more subscribers.
Based on Jenny Han’s book trilogy, To All The Boys: Ps I Still Love You starts off where the first film ended: with Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky as a couple (and hooboy, are they a couple-y couple.) They're complete opposites — she a romantic, with day dreams about Sixteen Candles, and he a true-blue jock, who would give anyone above the age of 21 some serious warning signs about being a future f*ckboi (too bad Noah Centineo is very, um, handsome) — but they look good together. They're totally smitten, go on these adult-like dates to Italian restaurants but then balance it out with an amusement park montage where they share many laughs in a bumper car ride. Awww.
But can they rise above high-school issues like how to be a girlfriend for the first time? How to handle a jealous ex-girlfriend? And not to forget, the widespread disease of immature boys (those who only want to play flip cup at parties) and impractical girls (who believe relationships should be perfect sans heartbreak).
Enter John Ambrose McLaren (Jordan Fisher). One of Lara Jean's past crushes, and also a recipient of one of her love letters. He's equally dreamy, though in a nerdy way and not in the chocolate-boy-prince-charming obviousness that Noah Centineo copyrighted (and monetised?). He clearly has a crush on Lara Jean because he keeps buzzing around her, reminding her of memories they shared as 11-year-olds, as they volunteer together at the same nursing home.
So, this is the main conflict of the film — who's the better guy for Lara Jean? Peter or John Ambrose? The popular boyfriend (yawn) or the guy she once had a crush on, who came back into her life when everything was going perfectly well only to add that kick of drama that makes your heart beat faster?
If I were Lara Jean's father — played by John Joseph Corbett (or Aidan Shaw from Sex And The City lovers), who I found the most dreamy of them all, and that would be appropriate given I am no longer a teenager — I would totally ask her to pick John Ambrose over Peter Kavinsky. But To All The Boys: PS I Still Love You is not about my choices or the father's; it's about Lara Jean's. And the film takes its time, letting Lara Jean revel in her confusion. Not too much time though, because they've gotta have those cutesy montages.
I only wish the makers kicked this PG-13 "conflict" up a notch. Isn't the very idea of a sequel to take things one step further? But here, the plot points include good looking young people with ouch-don't-break-my-nail kinda problems, and a resolution that involves the lead pair meeting each other exactly at the point you're expecting a miracle, implying that they were always on the same page to begin with, so, haha, the joke's clearly on the audience who bought into the idea that there was a conflict to begin with?
Okay, maybe I'm being too harsh on To All The Boys: Ps I Still Love You. Nobody really expects nuance in the film; it's the kind of movie you curl up in bed and watch because you liked the first film and are in the mood to indulge. This is no modern day love story, don't even expect it (a pity, since I believe To All The Boys I've Loved Before was totally a modern day rom-com, what with Yakult, Kombucha and fake relationships with Instagram validation).
But Lara Condor, Noah Centineo and Jordan Fisher are adorable and there are a few moments in the film that will make you smile. What else do you need, really, on Valentine's Day?
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