A rom-com sequel is a thing of rarity. Happily ever after, which supposedly comes after rom-com ends, does not always need expositions. However, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, the 2018 surprise hit adapted from Jenny Han’s novel is a part of a trilogy. The story of a Korean-American girl, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) dealing with the mess after her well-kept letters got sent into the boys she used to love is only the beginning of it all. To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You extends, if not stretches, the story a little longer; but, it eventually feels like a mere victory lap.
By the end of the first movie, Lara Jean finally sorts out the mess and, in a twist of turn, finally gets herself a boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). This is all new to her—having an actual boyfriend, being into a romantic relationship, and, moreover, dating someone who is rather famous at school. P.S. I Still Love You mostly deals with Lara Jean’s newly-found insecurities, which somehow clouds her relationship with Kavinsky. There’s where, as in the predecessor, the sequel comes to be grounded and relatable. For the whole duration, a question like, “Has Kavinsky done this with her ex or is this exclusively for me?”, becomes the main course; and, the insecurity is handled quite adeptly.
However, such insecurities are not the only conflict that the sequel offers to the audiences. In the first movie, Lara Jean’s letter got sent to at least five guys, including Kavinsky. In the sequel, it is revealed that the letter also reaches John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher, a unique and enticing recast after Jordan Burtchett at the end of the first movie), Lara Jean’s crush during middle school. Things get more complicated when Lara Jean and John Ambrose found out that they volunteer at the same facilities. She thought that by having a boyfriend, the thought about other boys would not come across her mind. It’s To All the Boys‘ mutual focus: Lara Jean’s naivety.
The first movie is famously saccharine-heavy; however, it effectively uses the overly familiar ‘fake-first-date’ tropes to make a sweet & uplifting teenage love without over-abusing its sugary potential. It focuses on little moments but still managed to craft a beautiful narrative. The sequel similarly plays on little moments—more contemplative and reflective ones; however, those moments often float at certain moments without building a proper narrative. While the arrival of John Ambrose is canon and necessary, the arc barely fits the whole contemplative story; oftentimes, it distracts the focus into repeating some awkward moments from the first movie.
The story seems to move only a little from the predecessor and each stage offers only small steps towards progress. Kavinsky, as a character, is relegated to a mere eye-candy as his dynamics with Lara Jean is barely observed. John Ambrose also proves to only be a small distraction. Maybe, the burden to bear as the middle movie in a trilogy makes P.S. I Still Love You barely developed. Only Condor and Centineo’s chemistry hasn’t faded since the first movie, and it’s proven to be the greatest asset to give a meaningful boost to the whole rom-com sequel.