The love triangle is not the easiest thing to pull off these days. As an editor, I notice that many readers and viewers are turned off by the romantic trope, often feeling annoyance or citing unoriginality when discussing the work. I don’t mind love triangles, but I do understand people’s frustration with the trope, especially when written for a young adult audience. With all that in mind, I tuned into To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, the sequel of Netflix’s popular YA adaptation that made Lana Condor and Noah Centineo household names to millennials and Gen-Zs everywhere. P.S. I Still Love You pulls off a special feat in not one, but two ways, for not suffering from sequel syndrome and pulling off the love triangle better than Jenny Han’s novel.
The sequel introduces a few new characters, most notably bringing in Jordan Fisher to play John Ambrose, one of the recipients of Lara Jean’s love letters. As Lara Jean (Lana Condor) tries to navigate her new relationship and a series of “firsts” with her boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), she also cannot ignore the feelings she had and may still have for John Ambrose, who re-enters her life when they both start volunteering at a retirement home. There, Lara Jean finds a mentor in Stormy (Holland Taylor), who counsels her in relationships and self-love. Along with Fisher and Taylor, Ross Butler and Sarayu Blue enter Lara Jean’s world as potential love interests for her friend Chris (Madeleine Arthur) and dad (John Corbett) respectively.
With all this love going around, it was easy to expect To All the Boys 2 to feel overstuffed or fall under the pressure of fan service. The screenplay from Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe expands Lara Jean’s world, while still evoking the sense of intimacy that made the first film so captivating. It complicates the narrative by making John Ambrose, a perfect foil to Peter Kavinsky, as well as emphasizing Peter’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend/Lara Jean’s former best friend, Gen (Emilija Baranac). Jordan Fisher exudes the same amount of onscreen magnetism as Noah Centineo, which is why this love triangle was so much fun to watch. The book version of John Ambrose was kind of forgettable and never felt like a real threat to Lara Jean’s relationship with Peter, so I was pleasantly surprised that the movie made this trope feel less like a cliché and used it to help Lara Jean learn more about herself and what she wants (versus what everyone else wants or expects).
To All the Boys also has a new director at the helm. Michael Fimognari took the reins from Susan Johnson, who did an incredible job at establishing the look, feel and overall tone of the first film. Fimognari is faithful to Johnson’s approach with lingering takes and centering the characters in the frame. But this world is a little more saturated, the brushes of whimsy are done with a heavier hand, and I missed the lighter touch of the first film. Regardless, the differences are subtle enough, and really, the strength of the film comes from its story and cast of performers, led by its wonderful breakout stars. If there is any reason to take time to watch this film series, it is so that Condor and Centineo can bring a smile to your face.
P.S. I Still Love You isn’t as magical and romantic as its predecessor, and it doesn’t leave you with the immediate impulse to experience it again like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before did. That’s a hard ask, and out of fairness, it does stand on its own as a worthy installment in this lovely and warm series about a girl and her first love. It succeeds in leaving you wanting more, to spend more time with Lara Jean and her precocious little sister, Kitty (Anna Cathcart), to see more of her Korean culture, and to continue to feel the all-consuming infatuation and the all-too-scary vulnerability that comes with being in love.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is now streaming on Netflix.