I am a sucker for romances and sequels to romances just means that the leads wouldn't have had a happy ending as such. Slo that's why I was a bit apprehensive about Netflix and YA author Jenny Han’s To All the Boys Cinematic Universe (TATBCU) surging ahead with To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, the sequel to 2018’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
In the first film, unassuming high schooler Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) saw her life spiral out of control when a series of love letters were mailed to recipients who were never meant to read them. To minimize the fallout, Lara Jean began “fake dating” dreamy lacrosse player Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). Those fake dates turned into real feelings, of course, and the first film ends with Lara Jean and Peter finally admitting their mutual affection.
The second film picks up almost exactly where the first ended: Lara Jean is a GF for the first time, and she’s at a loss. She and Peter are in a relationship, but the chaos of insecurity reigns. He used to date her ex-friend Gen (Emilija Baranac) and Laura Jean is a bit jealous about their sexual past since she and Peter haven't done it yet. Plus there’s all the anxiety of dating the school hunk, whose locker gets stuffed with Valentine’s Day cards from all the girls who are throwing themselves at him. Lara Jean meets up with her friend Christine (Madeleine Arthur), who says a lot of stuff but never says the word “orgasm,” even though it sure seems like she wants Lara Jean to have some.
Strengths- The strength of the TATBCU is the earnestness of its characters, who don’t find themselves in comic and awkward situations like in other rom-coms. There are no obvious villains, just average young people finding themselves, making mistakes, showing empathy over selfishness and being haunted by old lovers.
Drawbacks- The film loiters frequently, the primary plot stretching into dramatically elaborate scenes to fit traditional feature-length. It isn’t as ridiculously convoluted as its predecessor, which was weighed down by its gimmickry; it also leaves a subplot or two dangling, presumably for the third outing. The series is scrubbed squeaky-clean where better films get more traction with a bit of tonal grit and realism. It depicts a few superficial cultural elements of Lara Jean’s Korean-American heritage. Without that, she’d be just another average teen in a slightly above-average franchise with a more than a slightly ludicrous premise.
Our take- Stream it over Valentine's weekend.