Lara Jean continues to shine in ‘P.S. I Still Love You’

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Netflix released “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” a sequel to 2018’s high school romance. Unlike the vast majority of Netflix’s budding niche of adolescent love stories, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” proved itself as a delightfully charming romp. The hit comedy also marked the arrival of two premier teen heartthrobs — Lana Condor (“X-Men: Apocalypse”) and Noah Centineo (“The Perfect Date”).

To briefly recap the first movie’s developments, Lara Jean’s (Condor) multiple love letters were mistakenly delivered to each of her former crushes. In a somewhat complicated covering of her tracks, she agreed to a fake relationship with Peter (Centineo), who only wanted to make his ex jealous. However, they quickly caught feelings for each other and began an authentic, official romance.

This might not sound like the type of movie that normally spawns sequels. In fact, the new Netflix installment has more in common with Disney Channel productions than it does with Marvel. But Netflix understandably wants to capitalize on a profitable commodity and maintain its vice-grip on the popular-culture zeitgeist.

Yet, “P.S. I Still Love You” manages to capture the same spirit and charm as the original. It only falters where its plot becomes needlessly contrived, giving the movie a less resonant and personal feel. Even despite those shortcomings, the storyline remains reasonably true to the characters and their arcs.

Directed by newcomer Michael Fimognari — the cinematographer of the first — the follow-up features Lara Jean and Peter as an official high school couple. The relationship develops a rocky disconnect, however, when a crush from Lara Jean’s past receives one of her old love letters.

Played by Jordan Fisher (“Liv and Maddie”), John Ambrose reemerges in their lives as he volunteers at the same retirement home as Lara Jean. Despite her being in a relationship, they share an adorable, flirty energy. Meanwhile, Peter remains close with his ex to the dismay of Lara Jean. The result is the classic trope of a young woman torn between two boys.

Where a similar setup works in the 2018 original, the dynamic feels a bit clunkier here. The love triangle even expands into a circle in one awkward, uncomfortable scene. Unwisely, the characters deem it prudent to dig up a time capsule from middle school, putting everyone in the middle of a precarious sitcom plot. What makes this situation along with the arguments that arise so frustrating is just how easily they could be resolved if the characters actually talked to each other.

“Well, it’s not supposed to be like this,” Peter says during one confrontation. He then adds: “I don’t know. Not like this though.” Part of the reason why the teens’ inability to articulate their feelings is excusable here is that Lara Jean and Peter are rationalizing their emotions in live-time.

Still, these grievances are only hiccups. By remaining true to the characters and their arcs, “P.S. I Still Love You” manages to navigate the hormonal landmines. Lara Jean, for example, is still growing as a person, so the doubts come naturally to her.

Although the sequel lacks some of the heart and emotional resonance that characterized the first, “P.S. I Still Love You” proves a cute, relaxing watch. The love triangle offers curiosity and intrigue, and the humor and dialogue are sharp enough to keep viewers engaged.

Where the new film no longer feels like a revelatory coming-of-age classic, “P.S. I Still Love You” charms just enough for fans who still love the characters.