‘To All The Boys 2’ rates as sequel no one asked for


Raven Easterly, Feature Editor

Netflix’s 2018 film adaptation of novelist Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” became something of a sensation. Starved for this kind of earnest teen romance—a hunger perhaps stoked by “Love, Simon,” which had premiered earlier that year—people flocked to Susan Johnson’s sweet, colorful film.
Johnson and screenwriter Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe figured out a way to take the preciousness of Han’s novel, so full of the lovable young adult fiction and translate it to a medium that is slightly less forgiving of such cutesy indulgences.
“P.S. I Still Love You” picks up shortly after “To All the Boys” ends. 16-year-olds Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) have officially become a real couple, after spending most of the previous movie fake dating. As the movie opens, they are on their first real date, eating out at a fancy restaurant and building paper lanterns together to float into the sky.
While Michael Fimognari’s film does have some heart-fluttery moments—chiefly the first reappearance of heartthrob Peter, framed in a doorway and blessed with a nice winter jacket and a crooked smile—what’s more arresting is its gentle wisdom about everything that happens after the swoon. The second part of a trilogy (the third film has already been shot and will be released later this year), “P.S. I Still Love You” is able to dwell in a credibly confused middle place, where the rapid blushes of teen romance must contend with all the restlessness, uncertainty, and selfishness of adolescence.
Condor is still the beating heart of this series, and her performance as Lara Jean is deceptively complex. Lara Jean must be simultaneously a nerdy introvert and cool chick, but Condor makes both sides feel equally present and equally real. Meanwhile, reprising his role as Peter, Centineo proves that no one in the business is better at gazing longingly at girls than he is.
Lara Jeans’ insecurity matures this sequel from fairy tale to talk therapy. In the hands of Alvarez and Goodloe, Lara Jean and her friends don’t banter, they proclaim, as if being deposed by Cupid. It’s unclear if the script’s stolid dialogue is attempting to flatter modern teens, or if the writers just don’t know any real ones.
The scene introducing the love triangle is, if anything, overplayed. The music swells in the background; the actors deliver their lines directly to the camera, and it is so dramatic that in my memory, it seems to take place entirely in slow motion.
There are even places where this movie improves on its predecessor. One of the few weaknesses in the original was that it left Peter’s ex-girlfriend Genevieve a flat villain without nuance, which frankly made it kind of weird that Peter was so hung up on her. But “P.S. I Still Love You” takes a beat to see what’s going on in Genevieve’s world a little, and to explore her long-dormant friendship with Lara Jean as well.
So, when the credits rolled on “P.S. I Still Love You,” I didn’t feel that I’d wasted my time watching it, but also didn’t feel as though I need to watch it ever again. I give this movie two and a half out of five stars.