There was something special about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Separate from Netflix’s ever-growing archive of dodgy romantic fluff, director Susan Johnson’s whip-smart high school movie felt superior in every way. It revelled in cutesy moments, amped up the passion for emotional scenes and embraced the essential melodrama of a teen romcom. Basically, it was the viewing equivalent of a bowl of hot chicken soup to soothe you when you’re unwell. Now, the Internet’s favourite on-screen couple, Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), have returned for To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, but will their happily ever after survive a sequel?
For those who’ve forgotten, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before focused on Lara Jean – an A-grade student whose secret love letters were exposed by younger sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart). In a bid to avoid unwanted awkwardness – and salvage the wreckage of her love life – Lara struck up a deal with school heartthrob Peter. They would pretend to date in order to make his ex jealous, but also cover up Lara Jean’s crush on her older sister’s former boyfriend (who she had written one of the uncovered letters to). Of course, in a classic genre trope, the fake relationship saw them develop real feelings for each other, and they ended the film as a couple.
- Read more: Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before isn’t just about romance, it’s about messy, complex mourning too
This time around, they’re dating for real. However, their happiness is threatened when Lara questions Peter’s commitment, and with the reappearance of an old flame – her dreamy childhood mate John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher) – everything starts to unravel.
After John Ambrose sends Lara a response letter, she runs into him while volunteering at a retirement home. Working together, their friendship is rekindled as they sweetly reminisce about old times – including a heartfelt scene where he tries to woo her with a melancholic piano tune. However, everything collapses when first-time director Michael Fimognari tries to inject any tension into the script. Peter and Lara Jean’s bickering grows boring, while the meandering sub-plots (mostly surrounding parental romance) feel clunky and contrived.
Ultimately, this follow-up to a near-perfect romcom falls flat. Its frequent clichés soon become tiresome, and the overly-stuffed narrative jars with too many loose ends to tie up at the finale. Sweet moments do exist, but they’re shrouded in exhausting, shoe-horned drama. We won’t spoil if Lara Jean gets her happy ending, but one thing’s for certain, the viewer definitely doesn’t.
- Director: Michael Fimognari
- Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Ross Butler
- Release date: 12 February 2020