'To All the Boys' sequel: Loving in half measures

'To All the Boys' sequel: Loving in half measures

The novel coronavirus has prevented Noah Centineo and Lana Condor, the stars of Susan Johnson’s rom-com “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and its sequel “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” from spending time with their Filipino followers this weekend. But not even the virus scare could dampen fan enthusiasm for “P.S. I Still Love You,” which will be streamed on Netflix beginning today. This time, the movie is helmed by debuting director Michael Fimognari.

“Facing your fears—I think that is such an important message,” Johnson told Inquirer Entertainment in an exclusive 2018 interview to weigh in on her film’s crowd-drawing appeal.

“If you don’t take risks and reach out of your comfort zone once in a while, you’ll miss out on so much love… and life,” added Johnson, who now serves as executive producer for the sequel. “Lara Jean (LJ) was forced to face her fears, but in the end, she did it. She took an emotional risk, and it paid off.”

Avid followers of the romantic trilogy inspired by Jenny Han’s young adult (YA) novels are in for an extended treat, perfectly timed for the Valentine season.

The sophomore installment finds Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) facing more of her fears and insecurities as she navigates the vagaries of first love as a high school student in Greenport, Ohio—from her first real kiss and first real date to the exhausting urge to keep warding off the green-eyed monster just raring to get the better of her. After all, her hunky beau isn’t her school’s dreamiest jock for nothing.

In “P.S. I Still Love You,” however, Lara Jean’s risk has taken its toll on her confidence. Now a junior, LJ no longer has to pretend she is Peter Kravinsky’s girlfriend to make his former squeeze, Gen (Emilija Baranac), jealous. Sure, Lara Jean has captured Peter’s heart, but she isn’t sure his love for her is strong enough to keep him astray. Gen, who used to be LJ’s close friend, is always around reminding her of the sweet, grand gestures Peter doesn’t seem interested in doing for her.

While her sister Margot (Janel Parrish) is back in Scotland, her widower dad, Dan (John Corbett), has likewise found a fresh source of inspiration and “romantic distraction” in Trina (Sarayu Blue), their pretty next-door neighbor.

But LJ’s situation gets dicier when another recipient of her five “secret” love letters returns to town and threatens to wreak havoc on her rosy love life: Josh (Israel Broussard), Margot’s ex-boyfriend may be out of the picture, but John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher), whom she hasn’t seen in five years, is back in town—and, to make matters worse, he still makes her heart skip a beat! Indeed, it’s never easy to love in half measures. But is it possible for Lara Jean to be in love with two boys at the same time?

LJ becomes even more confused when she volunteers at the same geriatric facility with John and ends up spending more fun time with her former secret crush. John quickly makes it known to LJ that the “romantic fondness” mentioned in her letter isn’t unrequited or unreciprocated.

Unfortunately, LJ can’t bring herself to tell John that she’s already in a relationship with Peter—who’s been increasingly getting on her bad side because of some “unrealized expectations” (no spoilers here)!

LJ’s new confidant at the Home for the Aged facility, matchmaker Stormy (Holland Taylor), offers the confused teenager a new perspective on love as she encourages her to listen to what her heart tells her. But all LJ knows is how torn she is between the gorgeous man of her dreams and the sensitive boy who makes her feel good about herself. Has Lara Jean chosen the wrong guy?

Her dilemma drives the stakes even higher for “P.S. I Still Love You” because of the easy chemistry that fuels the tandem of dishy Noah and pretty-as-peach Lana—they’re so attractive together it makes viewers root for them.

But more than the complications their characters’ romance faces in the story, it’s really the unconditional nature of true love that makes the film’s feel-good formula rise above its contrivances and occasional predictability progression.

Be forewarned, viewers will get an unexpected but satisfying twist to LJ’s continually unfolding Cinderella story as the rom-com happily sprints to its anticipated frothy finale.

But, what awaits LJ in the franchise’s third installment, “To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean”? Will Kenny from summer camp and Lucas from Homecoming, her wayward letters’ two other recipients, also be showing up at her door? Or will Josh make another run for Lara Jean’s heart? Abangan.

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