“To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” shares many similarities with the first film in the trilogy, just not anything good.
Warning: spoilers ahead
Even though I have been denied from programs, rejected from internships, and turned down from academic opportunities, I can safely say that watching “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” has been one of the most disappointing experiences of my life thus far. My disappointment largely stems from the fact that the bar that I set for the film was already fairly low. Yes, I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the first film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” in the trilogy, but I will also be the first person to recognize that the new installment’s cinematic quality is nothing more than mediocre. Coming into the sequel, I was expecting a more cliche but pleasant two hours of young romance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“That … that couldn’t have been the highly anticipated sequel … right? Right?” I found myself saying as I continued to stare at myself in the darkness of my screen.
But yes, I am saddened to report that “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” was a film blander than lactose-free milk. Both Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) devolve from the complex yet lovable teens we fell in love with in the first movie to weirdly distant fictional beings with no clear motives. Their problems could have all been solved through simple communication, which was an especially frustrating source of conflict given that their two characters have been consistently mature and open about their feelings until now. The complexities of young love are left unexplored, and the fun, layered plot seen in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” gets completely stripped away. The story, conflicts, and resolution are left plainly obvious, leaving no room for any audience speculation.
Unlike “To all the Boys I’ve Loved before,” there’s no rewatch value, and the film seeps out of your mind as soon as you finish watching it. Jordan Fisher’s portrayal of John Ambrose was the only redeeming quality of the film. The entirety of the film set up his and Lara Jean’s undeniable chemistry, showing the ways in which he was more perfect for her than Peter could ever be, only to hit the audience with the ending nobody asked for. Peter still manages to get the girl at the end, despite being a less-than-stellar boyfriend. While the conclusion itself wasn’t necessarily poor, the way in which the film got to the ending was too one-dimensional. Film adaptations rarely follow everything in the book, but several scenes were altered or left out in a way that hindered the audience’s holistic image of Lara Jean and Peter’s characters and relationship. The novel makes the characters and their actions more complex without watering them down for the sake of digestibility. The film on the other hand altered nearly everything about the story to have significantly less depth. It felt too clean-cut and simplistic, and the cardboard cutouts of the characters’ personalities were literally force fed to the viewers caveman style: Peter bad. Lara Jean sad. John Ambrose good. Peter good now too.
It would of course be an exaggeration to say that not a single muscle in my face budged during my viewing of the film. When John Ambrose and Lara Jean engaged in their friendly banter and sparks flew through my screen, I could feel the corners of my mouth slightly twitch. However, every time I would be on the cusp of forming a smile, Peter’s flat character showed up on screen again and my lips immediately relaxed back into their former position.
The film did not meet the bar set by its loveable predecessor. It struggled to even brush against the bottom of the low-hanging bar as it jumped up and down in rom-com desperation, flailing its generic arms in an attempt to compete against its better, older sibling. “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” felt unbearably cheesy, but was just above the line where it could be cringey enough to watch ironically. The entirety of the one-hour and 42-minute long film was forgettable, which is worse than if it were terrible.
“To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” is like a Walmart version of the first film. My only hope for the redemption of the series rests in the release of the third film installment. Until then, P.S. I don’t think I love you anymore.
Director: Michael Fimognari
Story by: Jenny Han
Starring: Noah Centineo, Lana Condor, Jordan Fisher
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2020