In his directorial debut, Michael Fimognari takes on the sequel to the hit Netflix rom-com “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Premiering on Netflix Feb. 12, the high-school romance film takes on too much trying to live up to the charm and creativity of its predecessor.
Based on the book by Jenny Han, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” returns to the love story between Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). After months of fake dating in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” the two decide to take on this whole relationship thing for real.
While navigating her first relationship, Lara Jean learns about all the complications that come with her “happily ever after.” She struggles with self-doubt and comparison to Peter’s ex-girlfriend and her ex-best friend, Gen (Emilija Baranac). When one of the five love-letter recipients, John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), writes her back, Lara Jean has to face old feelings that never fully went away, resulting in a classic rom-com love triangle.
This main plot, while simple enough, comes with a series of subplots to liven it up and engage the side characters. But with none of the subplots getting the time or attention they deserve, they become mere afterthoughts to Lara Jean’s love life.
Lara Jean’s dad jumping back into the dating scene is barely explored. Her newfound friendship with the wise and sassy older woman Stormy (Holland Taylor) goes largely untapped. Even Lara Jean’s closest friends are left on the back-burner. Each has the potential to become a strong plot in its own right, but instead, they leave the viewer with more questions than answers.
Aspects of the cinematography were equally perplexing, pulling the viewer out of the immersive movie-going experience.
In one scene, Lara Jean roams the high school halls down in the dumps. She stares into the camera, mouthing the words to the background song as if she were in a music video. This could’ve been playful and clever if this style was established throughout the film, but that’s the only time the characters break the fourth wall.
Despite some odd choices, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” remains a wholesome look into a typical high school relationship (that started in a not-so-typical way). The film takes on a young relationship’s issues with lighthearted humor that’s still honest and open.
Condor (“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” “X-Men: Apocalypse”) handles Lara Jean’s world of firsts — her first real date, first real kiss, first awkward conversation about sex — with innocence but not naivety. She captures Lara Jean’s maturity and willingness to be vulnerable without neglecting the fact she’s still a teenager.
The film leaves the audience with what they came for — feel-good rom-com satisfaction.
“To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” will be available to stream on Netflix Feb. 12.