The following is a review of To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You — Directed by Michael Fimognari.
Netflix has only released its own films since late 2015, but, just five years later, the streaming service now has what could be a successful film series. 2018’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (from director Susan Johnson) was a surprise romantic-comedy hit that its young target audience ate up. Two years later and we now have its first sequel, Michael Fimognari’s To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.
Michael Fimognari’s To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You takes place not long after the events of the first film, which means Peter Kavinsky (played by Noah Centineo) and Lara Jean Covey (played by Lana Condor) are still lovey-dovey. But then Lara Jean receives a letter. It turns out that the recipient of Lara Jean’s final letter, John Ambrose McClaren (played by Jordan Fisher), has written her back, and soon he returns to her life in a big way. While Lara Jean is coming to terms with the return of her former crush, she and Peter are having communication issues. An overthinking Lara Jean hesitates to tell her former crush that she now has a boyfriend, which, of course, lays the foundation for new drama for the couple at the center of this teenage romantic-comedy film series.
Generally speaking, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is more of the same. This is still an adorable modern version of a John Hughes teenage romantic-comedy elevated by the chemistry that the film’s two leads share. Noah Centineo, who has apparently become somewhat of a teenage heartthrob since the last film was released, plays the character with the same sincerity that made the jock that he plays stand out, and the magnetic Lana Condor is, once again, the highlight of the film. Seeing them share the screen is really nice, and I imagine plenty of teenagers are already obsessed with the film series precisely because the stars are so great. Jordan Fisher fits right in, and so does screen veteran Holland Taylor. Taylor and Fisher are the two standouts of the supporting cast, but I should mention that a subplot involving John Corbett’s character is pretty engaging and sweet.
Michael Fimognari has taken over as director, and this is his directorial debut. This may all seem ideal and obvious since he was the cinematographer on the first film, but it sounds insane once you figure out that he also shot Gerald’s Game and Doctor Sleep for Mike Flanagan. In any case, Fimognari sets up some really nice and sometimes inventive shots. Fimognari puts the film’s solid soundtrack to great use in both the opening sequence and, much later in the film, in a very short but sweet dolly shot paired with the song “Moral of the Story” from indie artist Ashe. I would also like to draw attention to a visually pleasing scene at an aquarium that I can’t describe in detail due to the scene including plot details that I don’t think a review should disclose. Nevertheless, you’ll know the scene when it arrives.
Unfortunately, Fimognari’s directorial debut doesn’t quite treat its narrative drama or its love triangle as well as it should. Lara Jean’s internal anxieties are communicated well, but the film doesn’t do a good enough job of justifying the film’s drama or the film’s central relationship. Some of the drama, especially the drama late in the film, feels sudden, underdeveloped, and slightly forced. Also, this is a film about a love triangle, which is very cliched, but the film itself doesn’t seem so sure about what relationship it should make you want to be rooting for. The film pits Noah Centineo and Jordan Fisher’s characters against each other, but the film pays far more attention to building up one relationship rather than another. As a result, by the time Lara Jean made a decision about which boy she fancies, it didn’t completely feel like she was making the right choice. I don’t think this was the filmmaker’s intention. There were mixed feelings for sure, and, if I may speculate, that may be because the film wants audiences to pick a side without wanting to alienate the side that, for the lack of a better word, loses.
If all you want from a sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is more of the same, then Michael Fimognari’s sequel should meet your expectations. Though the film includes a cliche narrative, underdeveloped drama, and even though it largely feels unnecessary, Fimognari’s directorial debut, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, is an inconsequential but mostly pleasant continuation of Netflix’s hit teen romantic comedy thanks, in large part, to its two rising stars — Centineo and Condor — who still have excellent chemistry.
6 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.