‘To All the Boys: Always and Forever’ has enough charm left to give this teenage rom-com trilogy a heartwarming sendoff

Based on the best-selling book series, The To All the Boys film series is more of the more well known film trilogies for Netflix. At first, we swooned as Lara Jean unleashed her letters to boys who she crushed on. Then, our heroine faced a challenges from a past love. In Always and Forever, life-altering decisions shape not only Lara Jean’s love life, but her future in a charming conclusion.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever finds Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) returning from a family trip to Korea for her senior year of high school and considering her college plans – with our without Peter (Noah Centineo).

In the first film, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, our heroine is a hopeful romantic teenage girl whose secret stash of love letters gets distributed and sparks a relationship with one of the recipients, high school heartthrob, Peter Kavinsky. The second film, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, sees Lara Jean reunite with another letter addressee (Jordan Fisher), but ultimately choosing to stay with the original film’s love interest. Now, in this final film, all obstacles seem to be out of the way for our smitten lead characters as they graduate and head off to college, which could spell the end of their romance.

One positive I will say for this film is that this couple is firmly together and there isn’t another person coming between them. Unless an errant love letter comes into play, Lara Jean and Peter are a couple. I found it refreshing that I didn’t have to worry about that as that trope was already visited in the previous film, also directed by Michael Fimognari. The couple’s challenge the face is a big and very real one: their own futures.

Peter had gotten into his dream school, Stanford, on a lacrosse scholarship while Lara Jean waits for her own acceptance into the same school, while dismissing other schools as empty gestures rather than actual higher education prospects because she knows where she wants to be. While I understand this, it takes away from what I liked about Lara Jean in the beginning: a creative, independent dreamer that I could get behind. While there are sparks of that at times in the film, I really missed seeing that Lara Jean. A trip to NYC opens the doors of possibility for Lara Jean as she weighs her future plans and I see it arise: the possibility of accomplishing her dreams and the opportunity for growth. Lara Jean’s college crisis could have been better handled, taking too long to grant this moment the significance it deserves – except in terms of her relationship. Lara Jean wanted to have her cake and eat it too. I’m sorry, but that’s not how life works.

The success of the first two films relied on the charm and chemistry of Condor and Centineo and the final film relied back on that, making the film relatable and the entry of a third party – their futures – adding that grown-up flavor into the mix. However, their arc was more invested in this time around, reminding viewers about why we love this couple in the first place, but not always in this current moment of their lives. Somehow, I did find myself more interested in the mushy but evolved character of Lara Jean’s goofy dad (John Corbett), feeling that his arc was more complete in the final film of the trilogy.

Always and Forever does understand how all consuming first love can be in high school, how bittersweet graduation can be, when choosing your own path carries so much weight. That’s where this film hits its universally strong chords. After a messy road and two or three false endings, this film ultimately makes the right decisions for its heroes. To that rom-com trilogy I didn’t expect to like: you’re a winner in the end. Always and forever.

What are your thoughts about To All The Boys: Always and Forever? Did it satisfy the Valentine’s Day movie quota for this month? Do you think the trilogy ended on a decent note?

Leave a comment and don’t forget to give my Facebook page some love! Until next time, readers! Stay safe and enjoy a movie!

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