To All the Boys PS I Still Love You movie review: Netflix rom-com nails the Noah Centineo vibe

To All the Boys PS I Still Love You movie review: Netflix rom-com nails the Noah Centineo vibe

To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You
Director – Mike Fimognari
Cast – Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher

Testing the limits of fantasy and the human ability to suspend disbelief, the complicatedly titled To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You expects you to believe in a universe where Noah Centineo can be rejected for someone else.

An entire film (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) was dedicated to indoctrinating unsuspecting audiences into his cult. But this time, in the cruelest example of cinematic subversion, debutante director Mike Fimognari takes on the unenviable task of introducing a third wheel who not just goes toe-to-toe with Centineo in the swoon department, but also asserts himself as the obvious choice for the foolishly conflicted Lara Jean.

Watch the To All the Boys: PS I Still Love You trailer here

After spending an entire film pretending to be in love with Peter Kavinsky, Lara Jean is hit with a dilemma when a childhood crush appears out of nowhere and expresses his long-dormant feelings for her.

Lara Jean, meanwhile, is trying to make sense of emotions she’s never felt before. Does she deserve Peter? Is she worthy of him? Does he still have feelings for his ex? It is rather outdated, rationally speaking, to show such self-pity on screen anymore. But simply because the portrayal of a certain kind of behaviour is unpopular doesn’t mean that Lara Jean’s emotions are in any way invalid.

John Ambrose McClaren’s sudden arrival only complicates matters more. Crippled with insecurity and curiously prone to making bad decisions, Lara Jean rekindles her friendship with him, without ever disclosing that she is dating Peter.

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There is a wonderfully overwrought plot at the centre of PS I Still Love You; it’s a far less novel and infinitely more conventional high school romance than its predecessor, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which in 2018 gave the kiss of life to a dying genre, and almost singlehandedly revived the rom-com.

Unlike, say, Sex Education, Netflix’s other breakout hit about teenagers learning to navigate the harshness of high school, PS I Still Love You is ever so slightly removed from reality. Fimognari overdramatises recognisable experiences with the hope that its target audience will immediately connect with the characters, and older viewers will perhaps be reminded of the days when they, too, were making similarly irrational decisions.

Best known for his collaborations with director Mike Flanagan, Fimognari has shot PS I Still Love You himself, giving it a lush look that mimics the hazy romanticism of an Instagram filter. Certain frames, especially those involving a meal, are shot from above, composed like your best friend’s food posts put through Perpetua. When a character receives a text, not only does the chat window appear on screen — this is a somewhat tired trope now, anyway — it is, on occasion, accompanied by iMessage confetti and firecrackers.

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Even as Imtiaz Ali struggles to remain relevant to millennials, convinced that the best way to communicate with them is through hashtags and stuff, Fimognari has learned their visual language in a manner that isn’t as obvious, and subliminally successful at representing the voice of the characters whose stories he’s telling. You and I weren’t allowed to bring cellphones to school; high schoolers these days have probably had one in their hands since the day they were born. Phones are a vital part of their lives, and not necessarily the unnecessary distraction slightly older people might think of them as.

The teenage experience rarely changes, regardless of which generation is living it – bullies are mean and first love is sacred – and thankfully, PS I Still Love You understands that. Its version of high school certainly isn’t in the same universe as HBO’s Euphoria – nobody in PS I Still Love You appears to have substance abuse or mental health issues – but for its audience, it will provide just the sort of escapist fun that they’re expecting.

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