REVIEW: ‘To All The Boys: Always and Forever’ Offers More than Just Romancing Peter

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To All The Boys: Always and Forever

To All The Boys… is a trilogy of films that chronicles the high school love life and coming of age journey of Lara Jean Covey. Obsessed with films – especially of the romantic comedy variety, the trio fo films serve as a love letter to both teenage love and the films that inspire. Now in its third installment, To All The Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean grows more than she has before in the series. A Netflix Original, the finale to Lara Jean’s story is directed by Michael Fimognari and written by Katie Lovejoy, adapted to the screen from Jenny Han‘s series of novels.

Played by Lana Condor, Lara Jean is preparing for the end of high school and the start of adulthood. But her future may not be as assured as she thinks when her plans with her high school sweetheart Peter (Noah Centineo) go sideways and she has to adjust. That said, it isn’t just about things not going as planned, instead, it’s about how Lara Jean grows after a pair of life-changing trips, the first to Seoul and the second to New York City.

The crux of To All The Boys: Always and Forever is Lara Jean experiencing the rom-com moments, a meet-cute, a perfect song, the things that she and Peter are missing because of how their relationship started. But instead of falling in love with Peter again, this film is about Lara Jean learning and accepting that she can fall in love with a city and a future that doesn’t have him. The strength of this film is in how Lara Jean navigates her complicated emotions.

On one hand, she’s excited for a future that she’s fallen in love with, even if she didn’t plan it. And on the other, she’s still deeply in love with Peter and doesn’t want to leave him – like other people in his life did. Balancing these desires prove to be difficult but also transformative. They begin to shape Lara Jean into an adult, the way hard choices usually do. But that’s what’s relatable. It’s relatable as an adult who has lived through the college transition and I can only imagine that for teens who have grown with Lara Jean up until this point, it will land even more.

My issue with the To All The Boys… trilogy as a whole is the defining of Lara Jean’s life and choices around who she loves romantically, versus the family around her or even herself. While To All The Boys: Always and Forever is still a love story that has Peter involved, this film is about Lara Jean first and learning to define herself. That said, there are certain tropes that push the story to keep Peter at the center.

That said, my biggest let-down of the film is how limited the time spent in Seoul is. With a 2-hour runtime, we only get to see the sisters in Seoul for a brief montage. And while we get a mention of identity issues, specifically in how she wishes her mother was around to teach her Korean, that’s it. Given how we saw issues of identity raised in the last film in the trilogy, and the focus on Lara Jean’s family, more time in Seoul would have given more depth to the narrative and shown our protagonist growing. Beyond that, a montage of the sisters bonding shows how much the film has to offer but doesn’t in the way of focusing on sisterly love instead of the romantic kind.

But beyond that hiccup, To All The Boys: Always and Forever is a wonderful ending to a trilogy of films that capture the rom-com formula while also taking time to try to tell a story that uses those devices to center Lara Jean without Peter. But while roads lead back to romance, the film’s main song, “Beginning Middle End” by The Greeting Committee works in two capacities. It frames Lara Jean’s story over the course of the trilogy both through her romance and her growth as a person. With one song, we understand the film, Lara Jean, and her future. While I wanted more out of the film in regards to developing Lara Jean’s sisterly bonds, To All The Boys: Always and Forever delivers a fantastic end to her high school years.

To All The Boys: Always and Forever is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.

To All The Boys: Always and Forever
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

While I wanted more out of the film in regards to developing Lara Jean’s sisterly bonds, To All The Boys: Always and Forever delivers a fantastic end to her high school years.