“To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” starts with an homage to 1987’s “Adventures in Babysitting” — 16-year-old Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) imitates its memorable opening sequence, trying on dresses for her first date and dancing across her room singing “Then He Kissed Me.” Lovestruck and lighthearted, the sequence perfectly epitomizes the story of naive but swoon-worthy young love.
“P.S. I Still Love You” is the long-anticipated follow up to the Netflix movie “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” adapted from Jenny Han’s young adult romance novel of the same name. The first movie followed shy and sweet Lara Jean after her secret love letters were mailed to five former crushes. One such crush was popular jock Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), who suggested that he and Lara Jean “fake date” so he could make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Predictably, fake feelings blossomed into something more, and “P.S. I Still Love You” picks up right where the original left off as Lara Jean and Peter begin to navigate the dynamics of a real relationship. This transition is further complicated by the entrance of John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), another recipient of the aforementioned love letters, who swoops in with effortless charisma and tugs at Lara Jean’s heart strings. Retaining the charming warmth and relatability of its predecessor, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” earnestly explores the emotional pitfalls of 21st century teenage romance while delightfully capturing the rose-colored ebullience of first love.
Part of what makes this movie a worthy sequel is that it adds deeper, more complicated layers to Lara Jean’s story. She struggles with insecurities in her first relationship, and Lana Condor is always identifiable as she conveys the self doubt of a teenage girl seeking validation. Lara Jean finds herself comparing her relationship with Peter to his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, a point of insecurity that threatens their fledgling romance; “For every first I was having with him, he’d already had his with her,” she realizes, disappointedly.
While Peter’s ex puts his relationship with Lara Jean to the test, it’s the arrival of John Ambrose — Lara Jean’s middle school crush who moved away — that really applies the pressure. John arrives at Belleview Retirement Villas, where he and Lara Jean are both volunteering, just as winsome as she remembers. While audiences may not be inclined to sympathize with a character that rivals Peter, Jordan Fisher’s portrayal of newcomer John brings great wit and sensitivity to the role, making it easy to love his character. Considerate John is the perfect addition to the storyline, contrasting with Peter’s self-assuredness and leaving Lara Jean with a tough decision to make that keeps audiences invested until the end.
Although most teenage girls can’t identify with being in a love triangle between two nearly perfect boys, Lana Condor brings a grounded, girl-next-door relatability to Lara Jean. Romance is at the forefront of this film, but it also roots itself in deeper, universal issues of loss and flawed family dynamics. “I miss you, Mom. I wish you could tell me what to do,” Lara Jean laments to a photo of her mother, who passed away when she was little. Moreover, this movie is relatable for its modern subtleties, from the school a capella group serenading couples with “Ocean Eyes” by Billie Eilish on Valentine’s Day to Peter and Lara Jean posting every date on their Instagram stories.
Relatability aside, this sequel doesn’t retell the conventional love triangle story in any groundbreaking way. With the contrived but lovable plot of “fake dating” from the first movie gone, the sequel may seem less enticing to some. Despite a formulaic plot, there are enough new elements in “P.S. I Still Love You” to keep audiences on their toes. The cast preserves the onscreen chemistry that made the first movie so successful, and newcomers Jordan Fisher and Holland Taylor (who plays the wonderfully vibrant Stormy, a retired resident at Belleview) elevate a predictable storyline.
Although it's stuffed full of clichés, “P.S. I Still Love You” distinguishes itself from other teen movies with its distinct warm glow — a certain allure that comes from its dreamy color grading, ethereal synth-pop soundtrack, and the likability of its diverse cast. Most importantly, the film holds at its core the irresistible radiance of young romance, telling a palpable love story that can thaw even the coldest of hearts.
—Staff writer Jaden Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org