Movie Review - To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020)

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AKA: To All the Boys 2; To All the Boys I've Loved Before 2

Told by his biology teacher — just before dissection — that the octopus set before him has not one but three hearts, high school junior Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) leans over the table, scalpel in hand, but can't make the cut. Handing the knife to his girlfriend and lab partner, Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor), Peter lets her take control.

Understanding that whichever way she slices, at least one of those hearts will break, in a perfect metaphor for the love triangle our To All the Boys I've Loved Before heroine finds herself in in the sequel P.S. I Still Love You, Lara Jean knows that sooner or later, she'll have to decide.

Nervous and excited to begin her first real relationship with her formerly fake boyfriend Peter Kavinsky, at the start of P.S. I Still Love You, the two go on their first official date and promise never to break each other's hearts. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for their vow to be put to the test.

Wrongly assuming that she'd endured all of the fallout from her kid sister mailing her childhood love letters to her five biggest crushes (which comprised the first film's plot), Lara Jean is stunned to receive a reply from her sixth grade love, John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher). A flattered and flattering letter, John Ambrose's words stir up long dormant feelings she hadn't thought about since she was eleven years old.

Yet while the letter he wrote her is conflicting enough — especially since Lara Jean assumed that her love for Peter would make her immune to anyone else's charms — it's nothing compared to the butterflies she gets when, of all the senior living centers in all the world, John Ambrose walks into hers.

Volunteering at the senior residence after school, as opposed to all of the cool kids (like Peter) fulfilling their eleventh grade requirement goofing off at the local market, Lara Jean is so shocked when she comes face-to-face with the charismatic young man that she knocks over a candy dish and trips on a floor full of skittles.

Once the two begin working alongside one another, they fall into their old rhythm as if no time has passed at all. Soon she's placed in the precarious position of lying by omission — at least a little bit — to each of the boys growing more and more attracted to her every day, while she figures things out. Torn by both, although she's far more intellectually compatible with the sensitive, studious, equally nerdy John Ambrose than the popular Lacrosse player and hearthrob Peter, Lara Jean's boyfriend brings out her fun, playful side like nobody else.

Missing her mother now more than ever — and threatened by Peter's closeness with his ex-girlfriend and her ex childhood best friend, Genevieve (Emilija Baranac) — Lara Jean tries her best to navigate her feelings of insecurity, attraction, confusion, and love in this heartfelt adaptation of the second book in Jenny Han's bestselling trilogy.

Directed and shot by the first film's talented cinematographer Michael Fimognari in his feature filmmaking debut, P.S. I Still Love You opens with a homage to Adventures in Babysitting. Paying tribute to the '80s teen movies our heroine loves, perhaps because they remind her of her mom, the film keeps the feeling of nostalgia alive with a soundtrack full of cover versions of Gen X's most popular songs.

A gorgeously rendered production lensed with color printer cartridge bright punches of magenta, yellow, and cyan that swirl together as Lara Jean experiences the various shades of love, while P.S. maintains the cozy vibe of the first film, its look evolves right along with our protagonist.

In one of four visually dazzling sequences (which also includes what appears to be Spike Lee style double dolly shot), the palette deepens to explore sea green and midnight blue. The shades come to exquisite life in an emotionally charged scene set inside an aquarium when, much like the octopus, Lara Jean realizes she's linked to two hearts as well as her own.

Benefiting not only from the natural chemistry of Condor and Centineo — which is stronger in this film — but also the addition of the charming Fisher along with scene-stealer Holland Taylor as an advice-giving retired Pan Am "showgirl of the sky," the energy and warmth of the Love You's affable cast generates true sparks.

More easily upbeat than this contemplative, introspective sequel where we worry about her breaking the boys' hearts as well as her own, while the romcom-ready plot machinations of the first film make it my favorite entry of the Lara Jean saga so far, there's still a lot of joy to be found in this one.

Refreshingly wholesome, unlike some of the mixed messages served up in '80s teen comedies, P.S. offers a positive portrayal of burgeoning hormones and teen sexuality, which Lara Jean addresses by blurting out where she stands on the matter with hilarious results. Produced with care by Jenny Han, To All the Boys remains that rare film series that parents can feel not only safe but eager for their children to watch.

A stellar production with standout cinematography, which makes sense considering its Fimognari's strong suit (he'll pull double duty in the final film as well), To All the Boys screenwriter Sofia Alvarez adapted Han's young adult novel once again, along with P.S. newcomer J. Mills Goodloe.

The latest in a long line of above average female-centric romantic comedy served up by Netflix over the past two years, while it's hard to see our favorite young couple hit the rocks in this second installment of three, P.S. I Still Love You reminds us that sometimes it takes three hearts to find the right beat . . . or an octopus.


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