Honestly, I have never finished a rom-com and thought, “I wish there were a sequel so I could see what happens now that the delicious will-they won’t-they is over, now that they have finally fought, broken up, and gotten back together, now that the relationship is settled, and now that they’re, presumably, on their way to bickering over whether it makes more sense to leave your shoes in the middle of the doorway as if you entered the house and then immediately disapperated, only to reaperate in the next room shoeless, or, say, to put them away ON THE FRACKING SHOE RACK THAT IS DESIGNED FOR STORING SHOES (NOTICE HOW IT’S CALLED A SHOE RACK, YOU DUMBASS), AND THEREBY SAVE SOMEONE NEARLY BREAKING HER NECK TRIPPING OVER YOUR STUPID, SMELLY SHOES. AGAIN. (To pick an entirely random example in which I clearly have no vested emotional interest.) Wait. Where was I going with this? Oh, right. Teen rom-com sequels. Obviously.
When I finished watching To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, I also didn’t think, “Wow! What happens next?” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a sparkly joy of a movie to watch. Lana Condor and Noah Centineo as Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kravinsky have great chemistry. The movie has the familiar feel of an 80s teen movie, but with more diversity, emotional vulnerability, and conversations about consent. The close-knit dynamic between Lara Jean, her widowed dad (John Corbett), and her sisters adds a kind of depth and humor that we rarely get in rom-coms, which tend to be laser-focused on the couple. I liked it enough to watch it twice and didn’t regret a moment of the second viewing. And I wasn’t alone. The movie was wildly popular, so I certainly get why Netflix almost immediately decided to option the next two books in the series by Jenny Han to churn out more Lara Jean and Peter Kravinsky content for swooning hearts. And we all know that, even given my skepticism, there was no way I would skip watching the recently released second installment, P.S. I Still Love You.
To recap, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before follows the adventures of Lara Jean Covey after a batch of love letters she wrote to all the boys she’s had crushes on over the years—including her sister’s boyfriend, her former best-friend’s boyfriend Peter Kravinsky, a boy from sixth grade Model UN, a boy from camp, and a boy who was nice to her at a dance—get mailed out without her knowledge. I mean, it’s the perfect premise for a romantic comedy, right? As is pretending to date someone in order to make someone else jealous and then actually falling in love, which is exactly what happens with Lara Jean and Peter. The end of the movie leaves Peter and Lara Jean finally together, EXCEPT that, mid-credits, the boy from Model UN shows up at the door with flowers and his letter from Lara Jean. What?!? DRAMATIC CLIFFHANGER!! (And, I will begrudgingly admit, a decent set-up for a sequel.)
P.S. I Still Love You picks up a few weeks after the first movie ended. Lara Jean and Peter go on their first official date to a fancy restaurant and are blissfully in love. They promise to never break each other’s hearts. (I’m going to let that pass without comment, except this comment about how I’m pointedly not making a comment.)
Well, blissful except for the doubts that Lara Jean has about her inexperience in dating versus Peter’s, and her disquiet with Peter’s tendency to love things like playing flip cup at parties. At the same time, a letter from John Ambrose, the boy from Model UN, shows up and it makes it very clear that he really liked getting her letter and he really maybe still has feelings for her. GASP! Enter the necessary love triangle, which is perhaps slightly contrived, but just fine for this kind of movie!!
It’s interesting that there is no real villain in the movie. Sure, Gen (Emilija Baranac), Peter’s ex-girlfriend and Lara Jean’s ex-best friend, has moments of popular girl nastiness, but she operates on the periphery and her actions mostly serve to highlight Lara Jean’s own insecurities and the cracks in her relationship with Peter. And those insecurities, along with doubts about whether she and Peter have enough in common, are really what push the golden couple apart during the movie. And I would argue that this is pretty astute of the movie (and I assume Jenny Han in her books) to make this the premise. A lot of high school dating is about just that: insecurities, figuring out who you are and what you’re comfortable with, what makes you happy, and what doesn’t. And what comes after the initial thrill of falling for each other is, of course, figuring out staying in love, which can be hard at any time, but especially when you’re sixteen and another boy has the hots for you.
Anyway, we can’t just watch Lara Jean’s internal debates for the whole movie. So, can you believe that Lara Jean and John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) end up volunteering at the very same retirement home?!? And he’s grown up to be a dreamboat with a Genetically Blessed Face™ who does things like play piano and volunteer at retirement homes instead of playing Sportsball and volunteering with all his teammates, like Peter. You can, of course, because it is exactly what you would expect to happen, which is just fine! The movie has to walk a fine line, though, because Peter Kravinsky has always been an entirely supportive, kind, vulnerable, and understanding boyfriend who makes it clear that while, of course, he would eventually love to have sex with Lara Jean, he absolutely only wants to do it when she is ready. I mean, you just can’t mess too much with Peter fucking Kravinsky. So it’s sometimes awkward the ways in which they try to make him temporarily unappealing. At the same time, John Ambrose is so overly and blandly nice that I felt like he was more of an amorphous blob with good genes off of which Lara Jean could bounce her doubts about herself and Peter. I was not on team John Ambrose, though I feel a little creepy suggesting I’m team either guy since I’m old enough to have birthed either of them. (I am team John Corbett getting whatever he needs to get—respectfully and consensually—with whatever age-appropriate woman he chooses who also chooses him.)
On a side note, the retirement home is called Bellview, so I spent a good number of seconds assuming it was a mental institution, and I was confused how that would fit into the whole rom-com vibe. But no, it’s a retirement home, set in what appears to be a mansion with sprawling lawns and beautiful rooms. The whole place could have been pulled straight out of central casting for a cozy murder mystery.
At the retirement home, Lara Jean also meets Stormy (Holland Taylor) who is my favorite character, so you already know she’s an older woman with an acerbic wit and a long list of former flames who offers unsolicited dating advice while holding a stiff drink. (I am forever team Stormy.) While Stormy is an amazing addition, I did miss having more scenes with Lara Jean’s family. I admit I was hoping for a repeat of the scene in the first movie when her dad gave her a safe sex pep talk before handing her all the condoms. Though I was rewarded in this movie with Lara Jean’s best friend Chris (Madeleine Arthur) suggesting she learn how to get herself off before considering sex with Peter. It’s a brief scene—which sadly takes place during a product placement for Subway that I hate with the fire of a thousand suns—but it did make me hoot with appreciation. And it’s a good reminder that these movies really are primarily about Lara Jean and her, for lack of a less hackneyed word, journey, which is a large part of what makes them so good.
So, while I’m not advocating that rom-com sequels become a regular thing, this movie showed that there is excitement and romance to be had in watching two people figure out how and if they want to stay in love after the initial fizz has started to dissipate. Does it live up to the first movie? Well, it’s a little slower and more serious, but, like real relationships, you can’t live in that initial giddiness forever. That would be freaking exhausting. Nothing will capture the surprise, charm, and loveliness of the first movie, but that’s ok. This one has plenty of romantical adventures to make it easy to watch. I’d also like to add that, while no one should make a movie about it, there is also, and I’m saying this generally, not pointedly at one person in particular, a lot of romance in, say, putting your shoes on the actual shoe rack. That could make a person practically swoon.