Based on the eponymous sequel to the original book, Netflix’s “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” is a darling movie that follows Lara Jean (Lana Candor), after she and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), begin dating. But in the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’’ post-credits scene, Lara Jean’s younger sister opens the door to a young man carrying flowers and a letter addressed to John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), and we know that the outcomes of the mailed-out love letter are still revealing themselves.
The in-person reunion between Lara and her past crush John doesn’t come until later in “P.S. I Still Love You,” which dropped Wednesday on the streaming platform. There’s a bit of inconsistency, as that part of the story seems to have been omitted entirely. Instead, Lara Jean gets John Ambrose’s letter response in the mail and we actually get to meet him — now replaced by Fisher — later in the film when they coincidentally end up volunteering at the same senior home. But even though it’s rewritten, Lara Jean and John Ambrose’s meeting is just as serendipitous, in perfect teen-romantic comedy fashion.
In fact, their chance reunion and subsequent work days together are so classically rom-com, you almost want her to end up with him. He’s the sensitive childhood crush who plays piano and writes letters back. Their relationship is filled with cute anecdotes and precious memories that the two shared as kids. But as you fall for their little breakfast-themed Halloween costumes, you can’t help but think, “Is that all John Ambrose McClaren is — a past memory?”
The movie starts off with Lara Jean and Peter’s first date. It’s perfect. In fact, their relationship seems a little too perfect, and the film is well aware of that. It plays on the idea that this whole thing seems too storybook-good to be true.
But that’s why it works. It doesn’t really try to be anything beyond what it is. This isn’t a great epic of star-crossed lovers battling obstacles to be with one another. It’s two high schoolers trying something new with each other. It doesn’t need to be about high schoolers battling murder and familial betrayal to be together (think a certain CW series). To a high schooler, a new relationship is already that dramatic.
Sure, the dialogue is a little cheesy, and Lara Jean, in her voiceover, has a tendency to over-explain every detail. But come on, we’re not talking Nicholas Sparks here.
More telling over showing is forgivable because what they do end up showing is enticing on its own. The color scheme of the film is simultaneously super blue and super warm. Soft pinks and blues, along with Lara Jean’s preppy style and baking hobby are reminiscent of the innocence of girlhood and craving something beyond our years. She’s sweet and young, but she’s also a fully fledged person who has interests and ideas and really deep, really real feelings.
You really feel for her — her desire to be a good girlfriend, her nerves and insecurities around this being her first relationship. Lara Jean makes you feel like a teenager again and you catch yourself not only rooting for the guys she’s falling for but falling for them yourself.
And part of that is Candor, Centineo and Fisher’s subtle and understated performances. The actors have chemistry, which sincerely conveys the confusion and newness of adolescent love. It helps that they’re not all that much older than their characters (which I guess is a lot to be asking for when it comes to casting these days).
All in all, is “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” going to win any major awards? Definitely not — it’s not a really complex and thought-provoking script. But it’s a charming, tight 81 minutes with a cool indie soundtrack that is sure to make you gush when you watch it with your girlfriends on “Galentine’s Day” this year. Give it a go!