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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before ends on such a blissful note, it seemed almost a shame when Netflix announced a sequel.
After all, a sequel would necessarily mean driving a wedge between the adorable couple we’d just spent an entire movie rooting for. Was it so much to ask that they be allowed to live happily ever after, forever frozen in that field embrace?
Apparently so. To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You picks up shortly after the events of the last film, with Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) diving headfirst into the next phase of their relationship — which is to say the part where they’re actually in a relationship. They’ve put the complications of pretend-dating behind them, only to discover that for-real-dating comes with its own set of challenges.
What seemed at first like an unnecessary epilogue to Lara Jean and Peter’s story proves to be an essential next chapter in Lara Jean’s.
Miscommunications and misunderstandings pile up, jealousy rears its head again and again, and both Lara Jean and Peter struggle to make room for each each other in their lives. As feared, that golden aura of perfection around them dissipates, giving way to a more clear-eyed view of exactly who Lara Jean and Peter are, and what they may or may not have together.
But the trick of P.S. I Still Love You is that it does so without ridding Lara Jean’s story of its magic. While the sequel doesn’t soar to quite the same heights of giddiness that the original did, it digs even deeper with the story’s themes and characters to cast a spell nearly as satisfying.
The world of P.S. I Still Love You is still the stuff of daydreams. Every interior looks straight out of an Anthropologie store; every potential love interest looks like a budding CW star; every supporting character wholeheartedly embraces the role of sassy BFF (especially a scene-stealing Holland Taylor); every new development in Lara Jean’s love life elicits gasps or sighs.
Within those fanciful rom-com trappings, screenwriters Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe (adapting the book by Jenny Han) find the more grounded hopes and fears making their characters tick. Lara Jean may be unusual in her tendency to find herself in romantic shenanigans involving hand-written love letters — in the year 2020, no less — but the issues driving them are believably teenage, and her reactions to them refreshingly human-sized.
Much of the credit here goes to Condor, who remains dialed-in to this delicate balance between fantasy and reality. P.S. I Still Love You brings back the gimmick of Lara Jean carrying on imaginary conversations with her love interests, but Condor can say as much with a smile that almost hides her disappointment or her elation.
Centineo finds new shades to draw out of his picture-perfect dreamboat, not all of them flattering. And he’s matched in his charisma by Jordan Fisher as John Ambrose, a newish contender for Lara Jean’s affections. Fisher casts such a warm glow that he becomes not just imaginable but maybe even preferable as a replacement for Peter, making Lara Jean’s decision an impossible one indeed.
But despite the swoonworthy romance, P.S. I Still Love You isn’t about which boy Lara Jean chooses, not really. For that matter, neither was To All the Boys. In both films, romance is the engine for one girl’s journey of self-discovery — and one that manages to navigate that path without falling into an “I choose me” copout.
So what seemed at first like an unnecessary epilogue to Lara Jean and Peter’s story proves itself to be an essential next chapter in Lara Jean’s. That P.S. I Still Love You refuses to let her tale end on that lacrosse field isn’t an injustice after all, but an act of kindness — one that opens her up to the deeper joys of truly seeing someone, and deciding to build a life with them.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You will be available to stream Feb. 12 on Netflix.