P.S. I Still Love You is a disappointing step back for Lara Jean

Following the success of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Netflix’s adaptation of P.S. I Still Love You leaves much to be desired.

If you were around in the summer of 2018, chances are you were one of the millions who were swept away by the love story between Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky upon the release of Netflix’s adaptation of Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. The film became an instant hit, setting itself apart from the slew of traditional and predictable romantic comedies with its honest and quirky protagonist built for the new age of hopeless romantics. So, you can imagine everyone’s delight when Netflix quickly ordered the last two installments in the series, P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean.

But with such mighty shoes to fill following the success of the first film, there was one question on everyone’s mind leading up to the February 12 release of the sequel: is it going to be as good as the first movie? And unfortunately, the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”

P.S. I Still Love You brings back many of the familiar elements that first captured our hearts in TATBILB: incredible outfits, Kitty’s sharp wit, a killer soundtrack, and the disgustingly cute budding romance between Lara Jean and Peter. The film also introduces us to a few new faces and places, including a love interest for Dr. Covey, Belleview Retirement Home’s shining resident Stormy (played by the incomparable Holland Taylor), and of course, the latest casualty of Lara Jean’s letters, John Ambrose McClaren.

Though it succeeds as a cute teen rom-com in most respects, the film also missteps in many places where TATBILB was careful not to. The complex and heartwarming relationships that formed the heart of the first film were largely watered down to make room the sequel’s messy love triangle between Lara Jean, Peter, and John Ambrose — or perhaps “love square” would be more appropriate if you throw in Gen, too.

Most disappointing was the lack of sisterhood and family that was not only integral to the first film but is also a driving theme throughout the book series. P.S. I Still Love You gave us a few brief moments of sisterly bonding between Lara Jean and Kitty — and even a quick video call with Margot from Scotland — but, comparatively, the familial relationships that were so endearing and fleshed out in TATBILB are reduced to minor plot points in the sequel. I mean, Lara Jean’s father begins dating someone for the first time since her mother died and the two never even have a conversation about it.

When character relationships suffer, so does the plot. I’m not interested in watching Lara Jean be isolated from nearly everyone except Peter and John Ambrose. I want to see her rely on her family, cause chaos with Chris and Lucas, and learn to see herself as more than “Peter Kavinsky’s girlfriend.”

But instead, P.S. I Still Love You gives us a girl largely stripped of agency for the sake of the story needing a little drama before she and Peter find their way back to each other, even if we have to suspend disbelief and jump through sloppily placed hoops to get there narratively. Which, for the record, isn’t the case in the book. A game of Assassins fuels the tension between Lara Jean, Peter, John Ambrose, and Gen; Lara Jean and Kitty grow closer as they contend with their dad’s new romance and Margot’s absence; the wedge between Lara Jean and Peter grows naturally and gradually. These are the moments that were sacrificed to make room for heavy-handed internal monologues, the random pairing up of Chris and Trevor, and as much screen time for the pretty boys as possible (which, let’s be real, I can’t complain about seeing more of Jordan Fisher’s face).

P.S. I Still Love You is a perfectly fine, cliche teen drama about the woes of high school dating. But when its predecessor was anything but traditional, I can’t say I’m not disappointed. Hopefully the final movie, which has already completed filming, will be able to give Lara Jean’s story the satisfying conclusion she deserves.

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