‘To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You’ is a Charming Sequel – Review
The sequel to Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is finally out and I have been waiting since I finished the first movie to see Lara Jean Covey on my screen again. Based on the young adult book trilogy written by Jenny Han, the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series follows our hopeless romantic protagonist Lara Jean Song Covey after five love letters she wrote are somehow sent out to their addressed recipients. Chaos, drama, and maybe some romance ensues as things unfold.
From this point forward, this review will contain spoilers for Netflix’s To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.
Last we left off in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) began a fake relationship with Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) after all five of Lara Jean’s love letters were sent out. For Lara Jean, the relationship was to cover up a lie that she no longer liked her sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh; for Peter, it was to make his ex-girlfriend Gen jealous. As the two of them grew close, they realized that maybe their fake relationship didn’t have to be fake at all. And at the end of the first movie, we see Lara Jean and Peter formally beginning a real relationship.
However, a new contender has arrived! An Easter Egg during the credits of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before introduced the entrance of one John Ambrose McClaren. This scene was ultimately retconned in the sequel to nonexistence but we get the charming Jordan Fisher, so I’m not complaining. If you follow the books, then you’ll know that John Ambrose shows up in the second book, and once Netflix announced that they were making a sequel, it was only a matter of time before Lara Jean had to face more consequences from her love letters. So, what does this mean for Lara Jean and Peter when a new potential love interest shows up?
The sequel basically picks up right after the first movie with Lara Jean and Peter going on their first real date as a real, not-pretend couple. Their chemistry is undeniable and they’re so heartwarming during their honeymoon phase where everything seems perfect. Of course, the illusion of a perfect love is quite dispelled as things begin to get rocky.
At some point in the movie, our couple breaks up after a fight about, you guessed it, Gen, Peter’s ex-girlfriend. In the following exchange between LJ and Peter at the aquarium where Lara Jean returns Peter’s Valentine’s gift to him, I was sad but I wasn’t heartbroken about it. Their break-up didn’t have the emotional impact I thought it would have. Their expressions and feelings felt muted, like both were holding back from the other. And that could be a realistic approach to have, where the hurt is still fresh so neither wanted to make a grand gesture or move to stay together. But, that scene, as beautiful as it was and as emotional it was supposed to be, simply felt melancholy.
One of my complaints about the first movie was that she’s the mean one to Lara Jean for no reason other than to spite her. She’s a main reason for most of the fights between Lara Jean and Peter, so I was hoping that there would be more depth to her. For a while in the sequel, I was worried that they were going to continue that generic mean girl trope. But I was glad to see that they brought in more backstory to show that things weren’t always so bad between her and Lara Jean, and to explain why Gen and Peter were so close. More importantly, our heroine comes to the great realization that maybe Peter isn’t the one obsessed with Gen; she is. It’s great development and maturity to see from LJ, and it’s so important to see women coming together rather than tearing each other down.
On a visual note, the movie immediately opens up with the same aesthetics as the first film. The cinematography has the same vibrant charm and focus that connects the audience to the characters on-screen. It felt like a cohesive extension of the first movie. The scenes were bright and colorful, and I could have stopped at so many points in the movie and get a beautiful screen capture. My favorite one to look at is the jellyfish scene post-break-up. While I criticized how emotionally muted that scene felt, I can’t deny how beautiful it is to look at.
One of the most impactful parts and scenes of the movie was seeing Lara Jean descend the stairs like a princess. It was such a gorgeous scene and it made me emotional. It took me a moment to realize why that impacted so much; we never get to see an Asian American woman have a princess moment, gracefully descending down a flight of stairs in a beautiful dress. It felt, in the moment, like any girl can be a princess, but specifically, me, an Asian American woman, could be that too. It was only recently in entertainment that more and more romantic comedies and romance films are featuring an Asian American female lead and breaking those stereotypes of what characters we’re portrayed as. It was so refreshing and so moving to see Lara Jean having that princess moment for herself.
Lara Jean is more than just her relationship, her love letters, and her love interests. She’s a high school teenager trying to figure out life. It was nice to see that the core of her being remained consistent: still the hopeless romantic that we all fell in love with in the first movie. Life is complex and we see that she has an ongoing inner monologue of what’s right, what’s wrong, and everything in between. For example, she talks about all the stresses and worries she has about how to be a girlfriend and that every first she has with Peter, Peter has already done that with Gen. I remember being in high school and having those exact same thoughts during my first relationship.
And though I said that the break-up didn’t make me cry, another scene actually did have me tearing up: their reunion and decision to get back together. This was where I experienced the opposite of the break-up. Both Lara Jean and Peter were emotional and you could see it in their expressions. I could see just how lost in love Peter was with Lara Jean even though she broke his heart. And I could tell Lara Jean felt the same way. I loved the last message we get during that moment. “To have it all, you have to risk it all.” There is the honesty of hurt of wanting someone who might not want you back, but the risk is worth it all because love is worth it all.
But oh, John Ambrose McLaren–let me count the ways. This is a testament to Jordan Fisher because the moment I saw John Ambrose on the screen, I was smitten. There is a charm to the character that makes it completely impossible not to fall for him. And it was so easy to see how taken he was with Lara Jean: from the subtle way he flirted without being pushy and to the endearing way he looked at her. It made it hard not to root for him, but ultimately it was up to Lara Jean to decide on what she would do. But props to Jordan Fisher in making us all fall in love with him (if you hadn’t already).
As a love triangle story, I never got the sense it was going to be much of a fight. The advertising really tried to push that Lara Jean had to pick between Peter and John Ambrose. She ultimately did pick (spoilers, she chose Peter), but it was more that she chose herself. If we’re really looking at it, I don’t think John Ambrose ever stood a chance (sorry Jordan Fisher). Lara Jean had so much love for Peter but her insecurities with him and with Gen prevented her from fully investing into the relationship. But the biggest takeaway was that Lara Jean learned to follow her heart. She learned to work things out with Gen and to accept that she will make mistakes with Peter. She matured enough to not let her insecurities hold her back. It wasn’t really about “Team Peter” or “Team John Ambrose;” it was ultimately about “Team Lara Jean.”
What I loved most about this story is that this series follows an Asian American teenager. That’s right — Lara Jean Song Covey is half-Korean and the representation we get to see in P.S. I Still Love You really warms my heart. In the book, there are mentions of Korean traditions and cuisines, and we get to see that on-screen with these movie adaptations. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw the trailer and on my screen were Lara Jean and Kitty in hanboks! And the scenes of Korean food and the use of Korean terminology (“jung”) connects Lara Jean to her culture and to the overall story. Sure, we’re invested in Lara Jean’s love life and high school drama, but we get to learn so much more about her family, her mom, and her culture. It gives Lara Jean and her family so much more depth. The representation is so heartwarming because it gets to be a part of the story without feeling forced. But most importantly, it allows certain audience members to feel connected and represented in a way that never we never get to see in mainstream media.
I will admit that I am a sucker for supporting characters. There’s no denying that Lara Jean, Peter Kavinsky, and John Ambrose McLaren demand the screen and are our plot focus. But, I am equally in love with Kitty (Anna Cathcart) and Chris (Madeleine Arthur), along with To All the Boys newcomers Trevor (Ross Butler) and Stormy (Holland Taylor). I wish I got more of them on the screen, but understandably they aren’t our main focus. Each of them were charming and added to the movie, but I wish I got to see a bit more development with them (like how did Chris and Trevor end up so close? I need details!). Still, it was nice to see that the world didn’t completely revolve around our main trio.
Another thing that I loved most with the first movie was the soundtrack. I’ll be honest: I listen to that soundtrack all the time. And with this second movie out, I was so excited to see (or listen) what dope music this was going to feature. And I’ll be honest: I was not disappointed. I definitely listened to the soundtrack immediately after the movie was over, and again when I was writing this review. The soundtrack still has its pop bops without being cheesy. Hello, BLACKPINK? MARINA? It’s like this movie series is just making soundtracks catered to my music tastes.
Not only that, Lara Jean’s style continues to remain fashion goals. I want her closet for myself. It’s colorful, it’s hip, it’s stylish, it’s cute, it’s elegant, all at the same time. There’s a retro-ness to it that is resurging in fashion nowadays and you can tell the costume department really paid attention to so many details in dressing Lara Jean. Her personality is perfectly conveyed in what she wears.
But I do have one question that remained unanswered: does Lara Jean get her favorite scrunchie back from Gen? Maybe we’ll find out in the third movie. Maybe we won’t ever know. What we do know is that Lara Jean and Peter are heading into the third movie together, ready to face whatever challenges that may come.
Overall, I rewatched the first movie several times and wondered if the sequel would live up to those standards. I can say that I loved To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. It’s romantic, charming, and cute–things I want out of a romantic comedy. It doesn’t have the same excitement as the first movie where we get to first experience all the characters, so for that, I love the first one more. Still, the sequel checks all my boxes and I totally will watch this again.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is streaming now on Netflix.