Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, and Jordan Fisher star in To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

Dept. of Teenage Moondreams


I’m just going to come right out and say it. I am “Team John”. Yes, I am. One hundred percent. He’s sweet. He’s caring, considerate, and confident. And studious too. He plays the piano. He can really pull off a punny Halloween costume. He’s the kind of boy you would take home to meet your father. He is so very dreamy.

What about Peter? What about him? He was always just far too cool for school. I know. I know. He isn’t like the other jocks. He’s thoughtful and attentive. He is kind. Writes Lara Jean love notes. Opens up to her about his personal pains and traumas. And that face. Those droopy puppy dog eyes. That adorable smile. Sigh. He is so very dreamy.

Oh, I’ve done it now. I’ve talked myself into a classic rom-com conundrum. 

Who does Lara Jean choose? The popular lacrosse player whom she’s adored from afar or the bookish blast from the past. Does she pick the guy she’s madly in love with or the one who is madly in love with her? (It would be ideal if both of those things happened to converge in one person, but that’s not how this works.) 

It is a quintessential teen trope. And a highly effective one. Get the audience interested in two, equally viable and equally fanciable choices, get them as invested as your protagonist, and have them fight over who is ultimately worthy of her love. Edward or Jacob. Peeta or Gale. Naoko or Midori. Coke or Pepsi. Apple or Samsung.

The family get together before Lara Jean's first date in To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.

When I was done with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I was pretty sure I didn’t want – or need – a sequel. A clever upgrade to the teenage rom-com, the first movie, directed by Susan Johnson and written by Sofia Alvarez, was a revelation. Not just by the fact that it had a Korean-American lead, but by how it took every known trope, used it, and then subverted it to add layers of complexity that made the movie all the more interesting. 

To All the Boys was a real rarity. A teen movie that was self-aware enough to know that it was standing on the shoulders of everything that had come before it, and self-assured enough to stray from an otherwise well-worn path.

I didn’t want a follow-up because I didn’t think they could replicate the sheer delight of the first film. I didn’t think they could recapture that freshness. Sequels rarely do. And neither does this one. But it does do something different.

Team Peter!

To All the Boys ends like every other teen rom-com – like She’s All That, like Can’t Hardly Wait, like Say Anything – where, against all odds, the two opposites, the bad boy and the outsider, the weirdo and the cool kid, find themselves together and hopelessly in love. To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You shows us what happens after a John Hughes movie ends; after we presume “happily ever after”.

This movie begins almost immediately after the events of the last one. Lara Jean is over the moon at being in an actual relationship and is getting ready to go on her first “actual” date with her now “no-longer-fake” boyfriend. She’s finally living her fairytale. At least until reality kicks in. Until she has to cope with the extraordinary anxiety of dating the most popular boy in school. Until she has to deal with the snark of his jealous ex-girlfriend. Throw in the arrival of an old childhood crush and you have all the ingredients for some serious teenage drama. Collywobbles abound.

The way all of this unfolds is where this movie shines. There is no masculine bluster between Peter and John. This isn’t the jock in contest with the poindexter. This is an astute examination of how insecurity and self-doubt can wreak havoc on a relationship. It is the story of how the ends of fairytales are often when and where reality begins.

Team John!

That being said, fans of Jenny Han’s novels may find fault with some of the decisions that writers Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe have made. In the book, much of the dramatic tension comes from the wooly nature of Lara Jean and Peter’s budding romance. Working off advice from her heartbroken older sister, Lara Jean begins to question whether or not going all in with Peter so early in their relationship is the best idea. She decides that maybe it’s best to keep it breezy. She figures that their real relationship, much like their fake one, should also be governed by a list of rules.

Where the book takes its time building the bond between Lara Jean and Peter – John Ambrose only “shows up” some 155 pages into the novel – the movie skips past all of that in order to make the love triangle between the three of them the driving plot. 

What’s more, I think the filmmakers missed a beat by underutilising the character of Stormy (played here splendiferously by the wonderful Holland Taylor). In the novel, Stormy, who Lara Jean meets at the retirement home she’s volunteering at, is a kind of Yoda-esque influence on our protagonist. Providing a bold alternative voice to the romance novel tropes that run riot inside Lara Jean’s head. In the movie, however, Stormy has been relegated to an unfortunate bit part, merely showing up whenever adult intervention and quirky advice is needed.

What all of this means for the movie is that the eventual resolution to the aforementioned love triangle feels a little rushed. And key character moments seem to make more sense within the context of the book as opposed to what we are actually shown in the film. 

American teens getting a kick out of paper lanterns in To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.

My biggest critique, however, lies in director Michael Fimognari’s decision to punctuate every moment, both major and minor, with pop that is either angst-ridden or saccharine sweet, each one entirely indiscernible from the last. (I counted 25 songs before losing track.) There isn’t a single quiet moment in this movie. And because of that, there is no song here that really stands out or feels necessary. Which is unfortunate, because the last thing Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, and Jordan Fisher need as performers are emotional surrogates.

Condor, Centineo, and Fisher have tremendous chemistry between them. Their flirtations are smart and quippy. Their friendships feel real. And any nitpicks I had only became apparent after the movie was over. Mostly because of the heavy lifting done by its three leads. I just wish it was as thoughtfully crafted as the first.

P.S. I Still Love You may not sweep you away, it may not give you the same sense of happy anxiety that comes with first love, or even that first movie. But it does have just enough charm to keep you interested in the lives of these curiously chaste teenagers.

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
100 minutes
Director: Michael Fimognari
Writers: Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe
Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Trezzo Mahoro, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Kelcey Mawema, Ross Butler, Sarayu Blue, John Corbett, and Holland Taylor

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is now streaming on Netflix.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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