All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You: A Review

We were all 16 once. Therefore, it’s safe to say we were all a little bit stupid. I’m not trying to insult you, but it’s probably true that at 16, you had no clue how to navigate high school, let alone a full blown relationship.

In the second movie of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, protagonist Lara Jean Covey shows us exactly what it means to be 16 and in love. If you haven’t seen P.S. I Still Love You (which is unlikely at this point), I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but be warned! 

This time around, we encounter Lara Jean (Lana Condor), our sweet, studious and introverted main character in the midst of a real relationship — not a fake one! Of course, this is with none other than adorable all-star jock, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). The two make an unlikely pair, but I guess that’s the “aw factor” that makes so many high school chick flicks like this one enjoyable. However, enjoyable may be a bit of a stretch this time. 

P.S. I Still Love You left little to be desired, but not in the way of desire, because there was plenty of that. Rather, the film was troubling for its character conflicts and its rushed pacing, which sped the plot along like a disk on a record player. One moment we were swooning with Lara Jean and Peter, but in a series of quickly unraveling fall outs, we endure the dramatic breaking apart of their relationship. The aforementioned downward spiral can be attributed to many red flags: for starters, their poor lack of communication. Lara Jean and Peter, as is typical of most high schoolers, were unable to communicate accurately how they felt about each other, especially in regards to Lara Jean’s jealousy about Peter’s past relationship with Gen (Emilija Baranac). As a result, both acted in immature, frustrating ways. 

Second, the character that created this sequel in the first place, John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), presents conflicting feelings for Lara Jean as she begins to reconcile what could have been with what really is, taking us into problem number three — her anxiety. Lara Jean’s overthinking keeps her from being fully present and satisfied in her relationship, so she uses the coping mechanism of fantasy to escape, rather than confronting her problems head on. 

Clearly, the audience is not pleased. Why can’t she just be happy with Peter, the lovable jock who is head over heels for her? After all, the logic goes that she scored him — not the other way around. However, that’s flawed. We judge Lara Jean for destroying what seems to be a “lucky” and perfect relationship, but we are less quick to judge Peter because of his past experiences with love, and also because he happens to be the attractive boy-next-door we all dream about. 

So, why is this important? It all goes back to reason number three: Lara Jean’s anxiety. We see this anxiety manifesting itself in their relationship, and we get uncomfortable. Anxiety is not a pleasant emotion, and many people fail to recognize how difficult it is to manage. Even I, a natural born citizen of anxietyland, was caught off guard by Lara Jean’s actions throughout the movie. Think about it — she’s a 16-year-old girl who’s never been in love. Peter’s attention is sweet but also confusing, especially when combined with the watchful eye of his past girlfriend, Gen. A former childhood crush comes into the picture and naturally things just get more complicated. If we blame Lara Jean for letting her anxiety take hold, then we have to blame ourselves for all the times we waited to respond to a Snapchat, ignored a partner because we couldn’t tell them how we felt, or not-so-subtly interrogated our boyfriends about their new lab partner from Biology class. 

Despite its inherent problems, the film makes great social strides in tackling the problem of anxiety in adolescents. After all, mental health is not exactly rom-com material. However, such strides don’t eliminate the movie’s overall need for improvement. If anxiety keeps being painted as the bad guy in media, or if it’s shown to lead to destruction and then instant forgiveness, how will it be viewed in real life? Will the guy be standing at the door waiting for the girl even when her anxiety erupts? Also, what about his anxiety? That was hardly touched on at all, and why shouldn’t it be? Boys experience lots of anxiety, and it’s not something that should be glossed over in favor of age-old cliches that paint them as confident, masculine jocks.  

In the end, P.S. I Still Love You was a success in that  it delivered what it said it would deliver, but did so in a way that left a lot of eager viewers unfulfilled. Perhaps it’s true that teenagers don’t want to watch the perfect romance, but they also don’t want to endure one that mirrors all the insecurities and doubts they face in their own love lives. I think no matter what age you are or what relationship status you hold, this movie has something to say to you, just don’t be disappointed when what you see is what you get. If you’re seeking real fulfillment, try looking elsewhere in the world of adolescent romance movies, like The Perks of being a Wallflower. You might be surprised to learn that in movies (and in life), anxiety isn’t only for girls, and love isn’t always a picture-perfect kiss by the tree house.