“To All the Boys: Always and Forever” delivers surprisingly deep, thought-provoking film to end trilogy


Photo courtesy of imdb.com

Erin Fagan, Staff Writer

  Netflix finishes out the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” trilogy with a surprisingly mature and thought-provoking film. 

  In 2018, Netflix adapted Jenny Han’s novel “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” to critical acclaim. After the first movie’s success, Netflix released the sequel “P.S. I Still Love You” in 2020, and the trilogy wrapped up this year with the third and final installment in the franchise “Always and Forever.” The film follows protagonist Lara Jean through her senior year of high school as she has to make decisions about her future, specifically the future of her relationship with her boyfriend Peter Kavinsky. Both Lana Condor and Noah Centineo return as Lara Jean and Peter, and director Michael Fimognari who directed the second film is back as well. 

  Coming off of a less well-received sequel, “Always and Forever” had a lot of expectations and pressures to not only improve upon the sequel, but also conclude the franchise in a fulfilling and meaningful way. The film not only accomplished this goal, but actually exceeded my expectations. 

  While the movie and franchise is marketed more as a romance, this third movie came off as more of a coming of age story with a heavy emphasis on romance and relationships in general. The film is more centered around Lara Jean growing up and having to figure out who she wants to be, and what she wants to do with her life after high school. At the beginning of the film, Lara Jean plans to attend Stanford with her boyfriend Peter. However, this plan is quickly foiled as she is not accepted into Stanford, and now must decide for herself what path she is going to take, while still trying to navigate her desire to continue her relationship.

  This film was definitely the most mature and grounded film in the franchise. While the first two follow more of a typical teen romance movie formula, this movie was more of a subversion of the genre and asks viewers to ponder what happens after the relationship has started. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the film choosing to delve into the ups and downs of romantic relationships, and how real relationships are not always sunshine and rainbows, but rather require work, commitment, and sacrifice. 

  The film did a great job at portraying the struggles of moving towards adulthood and finding an identity. As someone who is in that stage right now, the film really resonated with me, and I could definitely relate to the struggles Lara Jean and the other characters were going through. Something all the films in the franchise did well was create characters that seem realistic. Lara Jean feels like a real, fleshed-out character, and this is in large part due to another stellar performance by Condor. 

  I was also pleasantly surprised that the film tried to flesh out Lara Jean’s boyfriend Peter Kavinsky more as it delved into his character with a look at familial problems he was going through. While this was a nice try, Peter’s situation could have been a bigger plot point and seemed to end as abruptly as it started, but I do applaud them for the attempt. While Centineo’s performance was not as good as Condor’s, Centineo did an overall decent job, and there’s no denying that he and Condor have great on-screen chemistry. The rest of the cast also gave very good performances, and the movie did an excellent job at continuing the stories of the supporting characters in a way that felt consistent with the rest of the franchise. 

  One of the areas the film could have done better was the pacing. The film clocks in at a little under two hours, which was a bit too long. Some points of the movie were too fast, while others seemed to drag. This may have been due to less of a plot compared to the previous two films, as well as a desire to tie up any loose ends in the trilogy.

   Another issue that arose was the slightly inconsistent tone. The cheesy montages and cutesy transitions felt out of place with the maturity of the rest of the film, and frankly took me out of the movie for a few seconds. Also, while I did appreciate the film trying to show the ups and downs of relationships, in some ways I felt Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship felt unhealthy. At times they seemed to be a little co-dependent on the other, and it is dangerous to romanticize this sort of relationship as being cute, especially with the intended audience being teens. They also made some questionable decisions in their relationship that were unnecessary and unwise given their ages. The movie concluded quite open-ended which may leave some viewers feeling unsatisfied, but it was a decent decision that felt consistent with the characters and overall theme of the movie. 

  All things considered, it was nice to see a film that really tried to convey the struggles that come with growing up and being in a romantic relationship as a teenager. While the film had some issues stylistically, felt a bit too long, and the main characters may not have always made the best decisions, it was an overall decent movie that tried to convey a positive message. Any fans of the franchise should consider giving it a watch, and anyone who is not might enjoy it as well if they give it a try. I give this movie three stars out of five.