Review: To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020) – The Same But Different

Lana Condor and Noah Centineo in To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

Its been two years since the first chapter in this Netflix trilogy and despite being set almost immediately after To All The Boys I Loved Before, the sequel P.S. I Still Love You doesn’t seem to really remember who these characters are. While the romance built naturally in its predecessor, here maintaining it feels pushy, oftentimes through increasingly showy conversations that feign intelligence. While it isn’t as disappointing as most sequels, it relies heavily on smaller moments outside of the story, the moments that remind you this is a series just as much about growing up as it is about grand romantic gestures as the big strides here are starting to get old.

Now that Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) have started dating new problems arise for the couple as Lara Jean questions whether she is worthy of this new relationship when old crush John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) reappears. As she and Peter begin to drift off the same page she is forced to figure out what she really wants and what she wants to take seriously.

While it doesn’t tread ground like one might anticipate, P.S I Still Love you also doesn’t really know where it is headed until it is there. This is a romance, but only for about 20 minutes. The only consistent and interesting storyline for most of this chapter is Lara Jean’s continued feud with old friend Gen (an underused Emilija Baranac). In fact it is this relationship that feels central here, with even Peter playing a bit part in what most writers would have felt was his story too. While it means less screen time for Centineo this time around, that doesn’t hinder director Michael Fimognari’s film as Centineo’s perfect teenager persona feels played out as he phones it in as Peter, instead playing the stereotype of the perfect rom-com partner.

While the visual style remains intact, with Fimognari continuing his role as cinematographer but taking over the mantle of director from Susan Johnson, there is a change to how smaller moments, the ones between Lara and her friends feel and look. Instead of a film framed through the often idealistic lens of Lara Jean, P.S I Still Love You feels like everyone’s story and because of that, Lara Jean’s trivial choices over men feel small. The original’s overabundance of close ups, the dreamlike imaginations of a girl who doesn’t know any better are gone although instead of being a sign of a girl growing up, it feels like an over adjustment as Sofia Alverez and J. Mills Goodloe’s script still treats her like the energised fantasist we know. While the first film felt like a move towards more agency in her life, here we are reminded this is still a high school story, but here the novelty is gone. The well written comedy moments make for an entertaining experience, just a completely unnecessary one.

While it tackles new issues and continues the story it also feels like the wrong elements have shifted in search on new terrain. While the world around our characters is the same, drastic changes in personalities and performances are jarring. Although the film offers exactly what you might expect in a teen love triangle, it never grows into itself the same way its predecessor does and because of that, the characters that look and sound the same are drastically different. While it might have an entertaining b-plot about not holding onto pointless fights or hatreds, it never rescues a film that feels equally aimless.

TSR

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