The first time I met Lara Jean Covey, I was a freshman in high school reading Jenny Han’s newest release, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” in an armchair at the Barnes and Noble on Washtenaw. I distinctly remember swooning at every flirtatious scene between Peter and Lara Jean and it really wasn’t any different for either of the movies.
The latest release in the series, “P.S. I Still Love You,” follows Lara Jean (Lana Condor, “Alita: Battle Angel”) and Peter (Noah Centineo, “Sierra Burgess is a Loser”) as they navigate the ups and downs of a high school relationship. Addressing everything from jealousy to old flames, the film is the epitome of a high school romantic comedy. Though the soundtrack is much better than anything I ever listened to in high school, “P.S. I Still Love You” is still dripping with the mortifying characteristics of teenagers convinced that they’re in love. And maybe they are, but Lara Jean is still a character whose only understanding of what “love” is comes from romance novels written by ghostwriters trying to make money off of lonely people in airports.
This aspect of her character shouldn’t be surprising — the films and books are relatively similar, and for how much I enjoyed “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” once the novel experience of the love letter played out, there isn’t much left that makes Lara Jean’s character interesting, or Peter’s for that matter. The two live in the suburbs of Portland, Peter plays lacrosse and Lara Jean doesn’t like to drive in the snow. That’s it. The drama that ensues is a result of poor communication skills and two people who aren’t confident enough in themselves to truly trust one another.
The introduction of John Ambrose Mcclaren (Jordan Fisher, “Grease Live!”) only heightens this mistrust, pushing Lara Jean, and the audience, to try and choose between the two boys. The fact that she is even able to make this choice, though after a considerable amount of consideration and drama, is a surprising character development for Lara Jean. Frankly, “P.S. I Still Love You” focuses on the wrong characters. We know Lara Jean and Peter are going to have issues, that’s a fact. It wouldn’t be a healthy relationship otherwise. It’s her father and Mrs. Rothschild, excuse me, Trina, who we want to see. The budding relationship that plays out in the background of the film has all the makings of another cliché romantic comedy without the unnecessary drama of high school.
Despite its clear lack of understanding for what high school actually is, “P.S. I Still Love You” is, for lack of a better word, really pretty. The film looks like a teenage girl put it through the VSCO C4 filter, but she doesn’t know how to use the toggle features of the editing app. And it’s perfect. The over-saturated warm tones give “P.S. I Still Love You” a nostalgic feel that is necessary to enjoy any kind of movie set in high school. And while I might have been screaming at the fact that Lara Jean paints “PK” on her face on the day of Peter’s lacrosse game, at least the rich yellow of the school bus was still enjoyable. Beyond the comforting colors, “P.S. I Still Love You” also has beautifully framed scenes. Particularly, the driving transitions to literally anywhere — the drone shots of a car driving through a winding road with either trees or mountains on the side — were prevalent throughout the second film and, though a little overused, they were incredibly satisfying to watch.
Both the film and the books read like a young girl’s fantasy of the high school experience. They take what we expect high school to be like, based on movies like “Pretty in Pink” and “Sixteen Candles,” and turn them into something Hollywood considers more “realistic.” But it’s not the ’80s, it’s not even the 2010s anymore, so why are we still pretending anybody has time to break another person’s heart in high school?