P.S. I Still Love You just hit Netflix and P.S. WE LOVE IT. But we’re not the only ones. Cameron Lund, author of The Best Laid Plans, is a HUGE TATBILB fan herself, so here’s the recap in case you need to catch up!
P.S. I Still Love You: the Recap by Cameron Lund
To say I’ve been excited about the release of Netflix’s Ps I Still Love You (the follow up to last year’s massively successful To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on the book by Jenny Han) would be an understatement. Did I consider staying up until midnight to watch? Yes. Did I fall asleep before this goal could be achieved? Also yes.
But, because I am a planner (and let’s be real—I have a hard time staying up past 10:00pm most days), I set my alarm for early the next morning so I could watch this film as soon as possible after a full night’s rest.
Sequels are hard; let’s be honest. It’s very difficult to add new conflict to a story and make it feel authentic after the characters have already had their happily ever afters. Some of my favorite movies have had terrible sequels: Legally Blonde 2? We don’t know her. Mean Girls 2? Trash. Grease 2? Okay, well this one stars a young Michelle Pfeiffer, so maybe we’ll allow it.
So while my expectations for this were super high, there was a small part of me that knew it might let me down. My favorite characters might get twisted. The plot might feel stale. Maybe I would find Lara Jean and Peter K just a little too cute this time around.
You guys. I needn’t have worried. This movie is amazing.
Of course, most of this is thanks to the brilliant book series by Jenny Han. I have loved these characters for a long time. I am a huge sucker for a high concept romance, but what I think makes this story truly special is the loving family dynamic. As an only child, I’ve always been envious of the relationship between the Song sisters. I love mischievous Kitty who still can’t keep her nose out of other people’s business, independent Margot, who is so absolutely sure of herself, and sweet Lara Jean, who is learning to find her own way without them.
This movie opens almost directly where the last one left off. Lara Jean and Peter have decided to try dating, for real this time. The adorable Lana Condor dances in her room, happy to finally be like one of the girls in the romance novels she loves so much. Peter Kavinsky (played by Netflix favorite Noah Centineo) takes her out on her very first real date. This scene is seriously the cutest. Peter brings flowers for LJ and also for Kitty because of course he does. LJ wears the best red dress and lipstick combo. They light floating lanterns and promise they won’t break each other’s hearts.
All I have to say about this scene is that oh wow you guys I am so single. These two are so cute. But of course, if everything stayed like this, we would have no movie. (Actually, I’m not sure if that’s true. I think I could watch 90 minutes of Lana Condor and Noah Centineo being adorable and in love and it would still be ART).
But there is trouble in paradise. Lara Jean is thrilled to be a girlfriend for the first time, but she also has doubts. How are you supposed to know how to be a girlfriend if you’ve never done it before? Peter has been in a previous relationship, so not only has he already experienced all of Lara Jean’s firsts with Genevieve, but that also means he has something to compare them to. Lara Jean isn’t ready to have sex, but she knows Peter isn’t a virgin and she feels like she’s depriving him of something (“is there a void in your life?” she asks him in a brilliant and heartbreaking scene later in the film).
And then there’s the letters. As we know from our first movie, Lara Jean once wrote love letters to all the boys she ever loved and Kitty mailed them out, getting us into this whole mess. Just when things seem like they’re perfect, a new letter arrives. It’s a reply from John Ambrose McClaren.
Let me tell you about John Ambrose McClaren (or JAM as he will henceforth be known). I have loved Jordan Fisher ever since he played Mark in Rent Live, a character that is universally agreed to be annoying and self centered and whom Fisher somehow made hot. That, my friends, is power. So I have been eagerly awaiting what he could do with a character that is all around lovely. He does not disappoint. There is a scene where he plays the piano that is a little bit life changing.
Lara Jean debates whether or not to tell Peter about JAM’s letter (they were all friends back in sixth grade) and eventually she decides honesty is the best policy. But things get worse when she and Peter disagree over where to spend their volunteer hours and she ends up alone at Belleview nursing home. Because surprise! John Ambrose is there too.
As Lara Jean and John Ambrose grow closer, things with Peter get more tense. LJ can’t get out of her head about the differences between their relationship and his previous relationship with Gen. On Valentine’s Day, he doesn’t send her any singing valentines (side note: as a prior theatre kid, this whole valentine’s day a capella thing would have given me LIFE in high school and I am now devastated that this didn’t exist at my school and I couldn’t be a part of it). She’s initially excited when Peter writes her a poem, only to find out later that she misinterpreted and it’s actually by Edgar Allen Poe. She begins to see the differences: John Ambrose enjoys helping out at the nursing home. Peter is a “take the last slice of pizza without asking” kind of guy.
There’s an amazingly cringe-worthy scene in which their whole old crew from middle school gets back together to open a time capsule. Lara Jean still hasn’t thought of a way to tell John Ambrose that she’s dating Peter, and so he rightfully thinks she’s into him. The tension onscreen as both boys puff their chests and offer to help Lara Jean clean up after the party is so deliciously awkward that I actually had to pause for a second to regroup.
When Peter finds out Lara Jean hasn’t told John Ambrose about their relationship, he accuses her of keeping her options open (Good on you, Petey! LJ was definitely being a little shady here imo.) Eventually they break up when LJ finds out Peter and Gen still talk (and she sees a picture of them hugging).
Heartbroken, Lara Jean attends the Belleview ball and dances with John Ambrose, and after the cutest frolic in the snow (in your new dress LJ? It was a gift!), they kiss. I gotta say, as a viewer I was super into this kiss. But it seems I am alone in this, because Lara Jean, alas, is not. She realizes she is meant to be with Peter. Sometimes you have to kiss someone else to find out who is right for you, says Stormy (the hilarious woman she cares for at the nursing home, played by Holland Taylor—who I instantly recognized from Legally Blonde. Is this two Legally Blonde references in one recap? Sorry, I just can’t help it).
The funny thing is that even though I screamed with excitement when LJ and JAM had their kiss, once Peter shows up in the snow to drive her home, I was back on my bullshit and flipped to Team Peter so fast. I actually started crying because it was so sweet. Thanks for the roller-coaster of emotions, Netflix!!
What I think this story does so well is set up this love triangle in a way where you really don’t know who to root for. John Ambrose is new and exciting, but he’s also just like Lara Jean. He’s sweet, and smart, and is “lame in a cool way” in the movie’s words. Peter Kavinsky is Lara Jean’s opposite—he’s confident and easy-going, and yeah he might have an annoying passion for flip cup, but he brings out a new side of her. Peter makes Lara Jean a better version of herself. In the first movie, she is terrified to drive. In this one, she’s grown up so much and now she loves driving—except for, as she says, in the snow.
There are so many other things this movie gets right. I love the complicated dynamics in the friendship between Lara Jean and Genevieve. Instead of just being a stereotypical caricature of a mean girl, this second movie gives Gen some depth. I love the dad’s blossoming relationship with neighbor Mrs. Rothschild, and how Kitty can’t help but to meddle.
And it is visually stunning. The color palette is heavy on the primary colors—lush reds, bright blues, and pops of yellow that are reminiscent of Snow White. There’s a heartbreaking scene in an aquarium in front of a wall of jellyfish that was breathtakingly beautiful.
I am so thankful for this movie and the one that came before it. Han’s book series launched the YA rom-com into hyperspace as a genre, paving the way for so many other authors (including yours truly). We might not have had Andrew and Keely without PK and LJ, so this story will always have a special place in my heart.
It is a truth universally acknowledged (at least in my group of friends) that Paddington 2 is the best movie sequel of all time. I hope I am not overhyping this by saying…watch out Paddington! My girl LJ is coming for your crown.
Cameron’s debut novel The Best Laid Plans is coming April 7. Click here for more info!