Lara Jean Covey is back yet again! The world fell in love with Lara Jean back in 2018 in To All The Boys I've Loved Before, which felt like a return to form for teenage romances. It was innocent, sweet, and oh, so romantic. A sequel, released in 2020 proved to be almost equally sweet, and now, closing the trilogy is To All The Boys: Always and Forever which sees Lara Jean battle with college acceptances and the possibility of a long-distance relationship with her boo, Peter Kavinsky.
Lara Jean (Lana Candor) and Peter (Noah Centineo), deeply and sweetly in love, plan to attend Stanford University together after graduating high school. Peter has already been accepted and Lara Jean anxiously waits to hear back about her application. She has applied to plenty of schools within driving distance from Stanford in case she doesn't get in, but she has also applied to NYU, mostly to please her sister Margot, but after a class trip to New York, the possibility of living in the Big Apple starts to seem possible and even desirable. Lara Jean must weigh her dreams against her love for Peter in order to make a decision.
To All The Boys: Always and Forever retains the sickly sweet edge of its predecessors, but it also observes some universal truths about growing up and facing life after high school. It's one of the biggest life changes a teenager faces, one where they truly start to mould themselves into the person they have always wanted to be and Michael Fimognari's film gets this spot on. Too bad the film is too scattered and overlong to finish the series on a high, but there is much to enjoy here.
Condor remains the franchise's highlight and biggest strength. While Lara Jean is often infuriatingly naïve, Condor makes her accessible and brings a lot of warmth and humour to the screen through her performance. Centineo is likable as the dreamy Peter Kavinsky, but as far as teen boyfriends go, he's awfully boring and almost enragingly understanding. Perhaps we're just not used to seeing such male characters on screen, but Peter's ability to always understand Lara Jean and her struggles makes the narrative bland and unexciting. Or perhaps it's the overall lack of stakes in To All The Boys: Always and Forever. There is an overwhelming feeling that everything will always work out, precisely because Peter is so understanding and the franchise is so nice and cute about everything. Peter and Lara Jean's relationship lacks realism and only works as an example of a perfect relationship, the one we often catch ourselves dreaming of but one that will never materialise because it's not real in any way. The film often also feels strangely sanitised; this would have been a great opportunity to talk about sex and love, but To All The Boys: Always and Forever trades that for simple puppy love.
The script, penned by Katie Lovejoy, sets up several problems and obstacles for our lovely couple, only to resolve them surprisingly soon. Nothing really carries from beginning to end and the film's narrative feels fractured and messy. Some of the later developments feels pointless and the appearance by Peter's estranged father, played by Henry Thomas, doesn't hit any of the intended emotional beats.
However, there is no denying the infectious positivity that works as a crutch for the third instalment of the Netflix film series. The narrative might struggle to flesh out its themes, but it's hard not to be invested in Lara Jean. The third film also tries to bring the focus back to the sisters themselves. Lara Jean's relationships with Kitty and Margot is afforded more screen time, but still not enough for it to become the film's heart and soul.
To All The Boys: Always and Forever is the weakest of the three films, but there is much to enjoy here. From Condor's winning performance to the cheesy tunes, this is the perfect comfort film, to be enjoyed with sisters, lovers or friends. There are plenty of missed opportunities here – mostly to do with sex and sexuality – and some plot points are never wrapped up satisfyingly, but To All The Boys: Always and Forever still delivers on that trademark sweetness that made us fall in love with Lara Jean and Peter 3 years ago.
Dir: Michael Fimognari
Scr: Katie Lovejoy, based on Jenny Han's novel
DOP: Michael Fimognari
Run time: 109 minutes
To All The Boys: Always and Forever is available to stream on Netflix February 12th