Sluggish Clichés or Refreshing Romance?

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You is the lacklustre sequel to Jenny Han’s book series turned film franchise, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. What began as a modern, inclusive and somewhat refreshing take on the teenage romance film has fallen victim to a sluggish and awkward direction held together by a script jumping from one cliché to another. 

Following almost immediately on from the first film, P.S. I Still Love You accompanies Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor) as she navigates her way through her first real relationship. Quickly realising that the plethora of romance novels and 80’s movies she’s consumed over the years did not count as research, Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) have to learn that sweeping promises and dishonesty do not make for a perfect relationship. It was the letter sent by John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher) that kickstarted the couples’ issues, as Lara Jean realises her latent romantic feelings towards him. Never have I seen a bump in the road be so sickeningly charming, handsome and respectful and therein lies the problem with the story. There is no tension, no fault to John Ambrose’s character and nothing overwhelming redeemable about Peter’s either, leaving me feeling wholly and utterly uninterested in the film’s conclusion. 

Michael Fimognari’s direction manages to uphold the contemporary and cute visuals from the first film, with frames full of colour and text messages laying the action out in front of us. The film manages to flesh out its main characters, by developing Lara Jean’s Korean heritage and delving deeper into her turbulent friendship with Genevieve (Emilija Barnac). To give credit where it is due, this film deals with issues of intimacy, insecurity and the complexities of relationships (at all ages) with a tender, respectful and honest approach. 

Finishing at an hour and forty-two minutes, the film could have easily met the 90-minute mark if it had picked up the pacing significantly and cut away all the awkward moments of silence in the script. It was genuinely baffling how much non-dialogue there was in both films, and not interestingly or intentionally, but more like the silence when you forget your lines in a GCSE Drama performance. There were awkward moments where the tone of the film changed completely as characters broke the fourth wall, attempting an aesthetic and trope entirely unfit for the movie. 

For the most part, P.S. I Still Love You is nothing to write home about, and I feel a complex ambivalence towards the franchise a whole. As far as cheesy romance films go, this one hits the mark, given it is one of the very few rom-com that features an Asian protagonist, I’m happy to let the clumsy direction and simple script slide. I firmly believe that people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and sexualities deserve their very own cringey romance films to hate-watch on a Sunday night.

Image Credit: Netflix