‘P.S. I Still Love You’: Shallow but Sweet

The Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s bestselling YA book To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before premiered in the summer of 2018 to warm reviews and enthusiastic support from fans online. It was the first in a mainstream awakening of Asian-led romcoms, followed closely by critical and commercial successes Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and fellow Netflix production Always Be My Maybe (2019)

It wasn’t long before the streaming service announced a well-deserved sequel, P.S. I Still Love You, which was released on Wednesday amid giddy anticipation. 

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The biggest charms of the first installment were undoubtedly the endearing quirkiness of Lana Condor and the sparking chemistry she shared with co-star Noah Centineo. Fans were hooked by the two, and it’s not hard to understand why. They played the budding romance between Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky with almost effortless ease, with a heartfelt earnestness that carried the film admirably, even in its weaker moments. 

While To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before ends off with Covinsky officially embarking on a real relationship together, P.S. I Still Love You immediately throws a wrench into the worksa wrench named John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher).

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Now, love triangles are always tricky. The trope is wildly overused in the world of romcoms, and often to unimpressive effect. The third-party character is usually flat and one-dimensional, with no apparent personality or purpose of their own other than to be as indifferent, callous or as selfish as possible to show the heroine just how much better the male lead is for her. 

John Ambrose is neither indifferent, callous, nor selfish, and it immediately makes for a much more meaningful conflict, and tension than typical romcom love triangles create. Interestingly enough, he’s everything Peter is—kind, caring, compassionate, sensitive, talented—but all in a distinctly different way, thanks in large part to Fisher’s charismatic performance. As easy as it is to see why Lara Jean fell for Peter in the first movie, it’s almost just as easy to see why she would fall for John Ambrose in the second.

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The winning Covinsky charm remains present, but make no mistake, P.S. I Still Love You doesn’t make it overly easy for audiences to remember why Lara Jean would or even should still be in love with Peter. The two get one lovely date night to remind viewers what they rooted for in the first movie, but the sequel wastes no time before jumping right into the return of John Ambrose. If it’s been a while for you, a repeat viewing of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is definitely in order before watching this sequel—but it’s a luxury easily afforded to streaming platform-produced projects like this, and P.S. writers Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe take full advantage of that luxury. 

Despite the minor areas of lack here and there, Condor and Centineo make the most of the screen time they have together, navigating and taking ownership of the change in their characters’ relationship with ease. It’s always a joy to watch two performers who trust each other work, and their chemistry remains a strong pillar of the To All the Boys series. 

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Covinsky romance and John Ambrose love triangle aside, it’s a pity Alvarez and Goodloe opted not to go deeper into certain aspects of the story and characters, especially Lara Jean’s exploration of her Korean heritage and her complicated history with her former best friend and current boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend Gen (Emilija Baranac). The audience doesn’t get a chance to see the work Lara Jean puts in to arrive at her decision to accept Gen’s bond with Peter, and it’s a missed opportunity for a nuanced exploration of our protagonist’s perceptions of female friendship and competition. 

A small compensation is the movie’s revisitation of childhood friendships. Kudos to the cast and production designer Chris August here, the old treehouse setting worked great as a visual metaphor: bright and colourful, as idyllic childhood memories are wont to be, but somewhat cramped and outgrown when occupied by a handful of teenagers. 

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While the interactions between Lara Jean and newfound mentor Stormy (Holland Taylor)—of the senior citizens’ residence Lara Jean and John Ambrose volunteer and reconnect at—are sweet, it’s also something of a mystery as to why an actress with Taylor’s range got quite so little to do, substantially speaking.

Overall, the movie stays true to its predecessor’s tone—a lovely, meandering stroll rather than a rude awakening. It does take some work on the viewer’s part to get there, but ultimately, P.S. I Still Love You is an engaging exploration of different types of love, and how one’s perspective of love grows and changes as one does.

Edited By Keshav Kant

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