“To All The Boys: Always and Forever,” the final film in Netflix’s popular “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” trilogy, was released on Feb. 12. The film is based on the 2017 young adult novel, “Always and Forever, Lara Jean,” by Korean-American author Jenny Han.
Released right in time for Galentine’s and Valentine’s Day, the film explores its beloved protagonist Lara Jean Song Covey’s (played by Lana Condor) relationship with lovable jock Peter Kavinsky (played by Noah Centineo) and her changing family dynamics, as well as the woes of one’s senior year of high school.
The “To All The Boys I've Loved Before” franchise has gained prominence for its valuable Asian-American representation in mainstream romantic comedies. YouTuber Trin Lovell, who creates fun film commentaries and currently has more than 568,000 subscribers, provides great insight on the significance the books and films had to her at the beginning of her YouTube career and more personally, as a Chinese-American woman, in her recent video on the third film.
Condor, a Vietnamese-American actress, has been highly praised for her portrayal of the hopeless romantic Lara Jean. Her success with Netflix earned her both starring and executive producing roles in upcoming comedy series on the streaming platform, titled “Boo, Bitch.” Outside of film, Condor has also ventured into music, mostly recently releasing a song with her longtime boyfriend Anthony De la Torre called “No Way.”
Han’s storytelling has also charmed the likes of Amazon, who very recently picked up another one of her young-adult trilogies, “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” for an eight-episode series.
The film is full of lengthy montages, cheesy clichés and predictable plotlines, which are typical of rom-coms. For instance, Lara Jean loves reading romance novels and frequently alludes to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” in this final film. But, like Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet, Lara Jean is a nuanced character to whom family is everything and whose individuality cannot be clouded by romance.
As part of the guilty pleasure genre of teen rom-coms, this trilogy is both comforting and idealistic. In “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018), the origin story of Lara Jean and Peter lies in the concepts of love letters and the famous “fake dating” trope in the first film, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The first film remains the best and most entertaining in my book due to its nostalgic value for me and its innocence.
The second film, “To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” (2020), challenged Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship in the context of a love triangle with the suave John Ambrose, played by Jordan Fisher, but did not meet the high expectations I and many others had built with the first film.
In my personal ranking of the three movies, “To All The Boys: Always and Forever” fits comfortably at second place. Some rom-com archetypes the film touches on are the coveted “meet cute,” grand romantic gestures and the process of finding the perfect song to symbolize an entire relationship.
The film is mostly centered around the subject of debating whether high school relationships can actually last and be adapted to long-distance circumstances in college. When Peter gets into Stanford University to play lacrosse, Lara Jean is rejected from Stanford and must reassess her plans for a happily-ever-after with Peter.
Consequently, she must choose between attending UC Berkeley to be close to the love of her life, or New York University to follow her dreams of living in the big city and majoring in English literature. Notably, when I watched the film with my friends, we were amused by how unrealistic and rosy the college admissions process looked on screen.
While I feel like I have fallen out of love with the character of Peter in the last two films, “LJ + PK'' remain an adorable couple in the highly romanticized settings of this series' films.
Although Lara Jean and Peter might be lovey-dovey to the point of the acting coming across as artificial and cringey, I've realized that these films in my mind stand out not due to their depiction of romantic chemistry, but of human relationships more broadly.
The other two Song Covey sisters, the wise Margot and witty Kitty, played by Janel Parrish and Anna Cathcart respectively, are wonderful to watch alongside Condor. Other supporting actors like Lara Jean’s best friends Chris (played by Madeleine Arthur) and Lucas (played by Trezzo Mahoro), and former frenemy Genevieve (played by Emilija Baranac) continue to make audiences smile and show real character growth from the first film.
The film continues to explore the Song Covey sisters’ Korean heritage, with even a few K-pop songs from groups like Girls’ Generation and BLACKPINK making up the film’s amazing soundtrack. And at the start of the movie, the family takes a fun trip with their dad’s girlfriend Trina to Seoul to revisit memories of their mother, with an especially touching scene at the Locks of Love near Namsan Seoul Tower.
As a final goodbye to the colorful and exciting world of Lara Jean, “To All The Boys: Always and Forever” is 115 minutes of pure joy and unforgettable fun to watch with friends and family.