REVIEW: ‘To All the Boys I Loved Before: P.S I Still Love You’ (2020) Shows How Rom-Coms Can Save The World

Rating: 3 out of 3.

“Like very few other films that have come out in recent memory, P.S I Still Love You realizes the importance of crafting internal limits to love.” 

To many, romantic comedies are reduced to a string of endless cliches. How can someone fall in love so fast? How can they all reconcile after such bitter conflict in the second act? Why is there always a party in a large house that absolutely no one but an upper-middle class family can own? Why is it always a white couple that gives the privilege of falling in love while all other characters are reduced to the background, supporting the protagonist’s actions no matter how bad they might be? It is a genre associated with the past and the characteristic mid-range budgets of the late 1990s and early 2000s. By and large, it is still associated with the derogatory ‘chick flick’ label, unable to exist in the filmic canon by its own merit. If a film revolves around the desires of a romantic relationship, it is too soft to have any ounce of reality by their male audience. 

To All the Boys: P.S I Still Love You, even more than its predecessor, simultaneously exists within these tropes and destabilizes them. After Lara Jean’s first date with Peter, the film revolves around the response of her middle school crush, John Ambrose, to her letter. With all the comfort of the first film’s resolution, Lara Jean wrestles with the possibility of what might have been, instead of what she currently has. It is a choice not often seen with this type of genre, and even with its saccharine ending, gives a sense of relatability to the audience.  

Image courtesy of Netflix

Like very few other films that have come out in recent memory, P.S I Still Love You realizes the importance of crafting internal limits to love. While the conflict is initiated by an external response to the letter, it is Lara Jean’s paranoia that drives the film. It is her coming to realize that love exists beyond the one-dimensional portrayal in her letters. The film’s depiction of love is real and it’s messy, it lacks proper communication and understanding. With every moment, the film wrestles with internal dialogue – this is a love triangle that has much more depth to it than you would usually expect. It argues about the persistence of memory, and what it means to fall in love. 

The film doesn’t try to make love seem perfect. Many of Lara Jean’s own fears mimic the all too common fear of commitment. She holds to the past so strongly that it seems hard to realize moving on any further from it. By over-analyzing what could have been, she begins to realize that she must apply nuance. Feelings, romantic and platonic, will never fully go away. Memories still exist and thrive within oneself. Maturity means to acknowledge this connection, while still living within one’s present. 

Above all, P.S I Still Love You reflects a shift in the genre. Even while maintaining the sweet nature of a romantic comedy, it gives a real conflict to wrestle with. It understands the pain of falling in love with someone else, and the vulnerability it must bring. In a world where happy endings seem impossible, there is some magic here. In P.S I Still Love You, it is okay to make mistakes; they only make for a stronger understanding of one another. It is a message that may seem a bit cliche, but perhaps rom-coms, when recognizing the absolute chaos that comes with falling in love, giving real stakes to the internal drive of character, can shift the cultural consciousness. Maybe we will be able to see that love can truly change the world, even if it is not as easy as the movies tell you. 

Dir: Michael Fimognari

Prod: Marc Bienstock, Susan Johnson, Don Dunn, Matthew Kaplan, Robyn Marshall, Scott Levine, Max Siemers, Jenny Han, Sofia Alvarez, Shelley Zimmerman, Rebecca Glashow

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher, Ross Butler, Anna Cathcart, Janel Parrish, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Trezzo Mahoro, Holland Taylor, Sarayu Rao John Corbett

Available On: Netflix