“To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” Review: Just what happens after you get your happy ending?

Romance obsessed Lara Jean discovers that getting the guy was the easy part: being a girlfriend is much, much harder

Starring Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher, Anna Cathcart, Janel Parrish, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Trezzo Mahoro, Holland Taylor, Sarayu Blue, and John Corbett

Romance novels are deceptive. A couple meet, obstacles spring up between them, but the power of love wins through in the end, and the closing moments find the pair locked in a passionate embrace, finally united against all odds. Happily ever after. But what about after that? What about the obstacles that occur time and time again, even after you’re with the person you love? What about when just loving somebody isn’t enough? What about when the obstacles are the ones you put in your own way? Being together simply isn’t the fairytale the novels pretend it is. Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) is about to discover that the hard way.

We left Lara Jean at the end of the massively successful breakout hit To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before getting together with popular jock Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) after they’d spent most of that movie pretending to be in a relationship before actually falling for each other. Fade to black. And then fade back in very soon afterwards, to find Lara Jean insistent that she is living the fairytale of her fantasies. She soon finds herself, however, confronting the reality of being with Peter: namely her own insecurity and expectations for what he’s able to provide.

This disillusionment isn’t exactly helped by the reemergence of her old crush John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), who Lara Jean meets while volunteering at the Belleview retirement home. In many ways, he is more compatible with Lara Jean than Peter is, with equal levels of charm, but granting Lara Jean his time and attention, as well as being as studious and bookish as she is. Meanwhile, tensions begin to rise between Lara Jean and Peter as he struggles to meet Lara Jean’s idea for what a boyfriend should be able to provide her.

While not quite as winning as the first film, which largely shone through the bombastic chemistry of Condor and Centineo, this movie thrives through the important exploration of the difficulties of relationships. There’s no sugar coating the quagmire that Lara Jean finds herself in. The film delights in her troubles with communicating what she needs within her relationship and the tremendous gulf that exists between her own romantic notions and reality, which is most certainly an important and relevant message for any viewer, but in particular the younger ones.

This film is certainly more frustrating than the first, as you can see far more misunderstandings emerging, and misunderstandings tend to be the most irritating of obstacles for a narrative to thrive upon, but it is, at least, contextual to the characters involved. It’s small wonder that Lara Jean finds herself pulled from Peter towards John Ambrose during the story, as she’s a Romance novel enthusiast and she is clearly seeking an escape from her complicated relationship with Peter and gets caught up inside a different fairytale. She’s seeking the thrill of the prelude, the actual meat of the story, but finds herself dreadfully untethered and lost once she ends up stranded after “Happily Ever After”.

Ultimately, To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You still boasts brilliant and endearing performances: predictably so from Condor and Centineo, but also from new face Jordan Fisher as John Ambrose. Unfortunately, the chemistry between Lara Jean and Peter is simply too great for John Ambrose’s candidacy to be anything other than a narrative inconvenience, but is remarkable how maturely the story handles the truth behind the typical romantic depiction of young love, as well as Lara Jean’s own development as a young woman.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is available to stream now on Netflix.

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