Director: Michael Fimognari
Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher
Writer: Sofia Alvarez, J. Mills Goodloe (Based on P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han)
Streaming Platform: Netflix
Duration: 1 hour, 21 minutes.
There is a conflicting quality about To All The Boys: PS I Still Love You. It creates a universe of threadbare believability and radical coincidence, but we buy into it anyway because it is so easy to buy into the idea of love being singular and magical. (The movie briefly flirts with the idea that we can love more than one person at the same time and that choosing love is a radical act of rejecting another prospective love, but this is too sandpaper for the glossy gossamer of this universe, and I didn’t mind it at all.)
This believability holds insofar as the charm holds; the charm of Lara Jean (Lana Condor’s superb oscillation between uncertainty, self-doubt and calm, clarity) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo as the adorable and dimwit hunk who cannot convincingly get through a reading of Edgar Allan Poe poetry). The charm doesn’t quite fray, it just doesn’t amplify. The whole movie plays out in a single note barring a tense scene in a treehouse with old flames, older friends, and new lovers.
It takes off from the first installment, To All The Boys I Have Loved Before (2018) which though endearing in parts I found quite a chore to watch beyond a point as the gloss fades and the tension loosens. This installment begins with Lara and Pete feeling the first flushes of love, going on their first date. Then, John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher who is optimally handsome, intelligent, and smooth) shows up; one of Lara’s love letters of the past was posted to him and he shows up to redeem past affections for future flirtations. Therein lies the conflict.
The thing about the genre is that you know exactly what is going to happen in the end. The craft is in producing enough conflicts, moments where you as a viewer wonder ‘How will she fix this now?’. The first installment didn’t quite get that right. This installment, I am happy to report, held me in its soft cradling arms the whole ride as I lulled to Centineo’ and Fisher’s gruff and certain voices, the oral equivalent of a strong arm to rest wearily on. I was with Lara Jean through her frustrations of whom to choose.
Moreover, what this installment does right is it sets up the conflict within ten minutes of its runtime; perhaps because here the writers don’t need to set-up the family, its background and their place in the universe of hierarchies and power.
But the ‘conflicting quality’ I spoke of earlier kicks in- the sense that “You could have solved this entire conundrum by just letting the person speak” or certain moments whose contrition you don’t entirely buy into, or even certain moments of expressing love that made me grovel. By all means I am not a cynic, it’s just that there is something unsatisfying about lust being completely sidelined. It is the demands of the genre, I get but, but perhaps an evolution is called for.
By all means make this mushpot romance your latest casualty in the Netflix binge.
There are, of course, the nods to creating a more progressive genre- getting divorced or single parents together, old women with desires and reconciled nostalgia (a wonderful Holland Taylor who reminisces her days of being a stewardess, shaking gin martinis at 30,000 feet, with glee, and not glum) and the wonderful element of holding onto one’s Asian heritage through customs which though one doesn’t understand, one appreciates.
By all means make this mushpot romance your latest casualty in the Netflix binge. Like a warm dispensable hug you feel it, disentangle, reminisce it, but then quietly forget it ever happened, because the world around with its toxic, layered tentacles, exists to make you forget simplicity. It’s only an idea in your head- like that one true love.