Arts and Entertainment

We’ll Miss You Lara Jean. Always and Forever.

“To All the Boys: Always and Forever” proves to be a sweet, truly full-circle ending to the movie trilogy, despite some of its overly mushy scenes.

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By Chloe Huang

About a year ago, audiences were underwhelmed by “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.” Though the movie gave us reasons to smile and believe in love again, it also fell flat in many ways, with rushed romantic arcs and inconsistency across the board. Still, fans were optimistic about the third chapter in the series, “To All the Boys: Always and Forever,” which hoped to revive some of the series’s initial success. Thankfully, “Always and Forever” was able to deliver on continuity, relatability, and romance, despite having some painfully awkward scenes and occasionally clichéd dialogue.

“Always and Forever” brings us back to pre-COVID-19 times, after now-senior Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) returns from her spring break abroad to one of the most stressful times in a high schooler’s life: college acceptance season. Having already planned out a future with her boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), she assumed that they would be the high school couple that lasts through college. But Lara Jean quickly learns that most things do not go according to plan. Throughout the movie, she discovers her true passions and deals with the sometimes unwelcome inevitability of growing up.

The movie is the closing chapter to Covey and Kavinsky’s sweet story, and it does a great job of providing a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy as a whole. Many of the scenes in the movie circle back to the first movie in the series, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018), returning to its roots of self discovery and finding true love. The best thing about this film is how it relates to and works with the themes and plotlines of its predecessors. The first movie took us through the first steps in Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship, after Lara Jean’s sister, Kitty (Anna Carthart), sent out the private love letters she wrote to five guys (including Peter) to give her a shot at love. The second brought us back to those letters Kitty sent, as one recipient came back to town, John Ambrose McClaren (Jordan Fisher). One year after the release of the second movie in this trilogy, in a world that is so alien, viewers are yearning for familiarity.

Those original emotions that made us swoon over Peter and resonate with Lara Jean flood back as soon as the play button is clicked. Watching Lara Jean give Peter the box that contained the original letters that she sent in the first movie and hearing the same song (“I Like Me Better” by Lauv) play when the grade took a senior trip to New York City that was played in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” on a ski trip was an instant connection between the past and present. The small details were integrated well throughout the film, and having callbacks to appeal to emotion brought a level of nostalgia, despite the new themes incorporated in the plot.

“Always and Forever” also tackles many lessons that come with growing up and involves significantly more realistic situations than those in the previous films. Conversations about both parties not rushing to lose their virginity, respecting boundaries, lack of communication, and encouraging one another to go after their goals throughout college and beyond added a level of relatability not present in the more dramatic storylines of the previous movies in the series. Dealing with rejection and making difficult but important choices are things everyone has to face, and it’s these more relatable moments that this film highlights. Having uncomfortable conversations is what it means to grow up, and “Always and Forever” does a spectacular job incorporating those themes into its previously over-the-top depiction of high school life. No more glorified “second love interest comes into the picture” trope, fake relationships, or overly toxic peers. Grounded conflict makes it more immersive for the audience and allows them to resonate with the film.

In the cultural sphere, it is important to note how groundbreaking the “To All the Boys” series was as the first romantic comedy with an Asian-American lead. With so much anti-Asian sentiment apparent especially today, the series provides hope for advancements in diversity within the film industry. Lara Jean’s Korean background is more prevalent in this movie than the ones prior, but still doesn’t go very much in depth about her heritage and history. Though it was not the point of the film, it was still refreshing to see a bit more of Lara Jean’s culture come in throughout the movie.

All three films are adapted from Jenny Han’s books by the same names, giving both the director, Michael Fimognari, and the screenwriter, Katie Lovejoy, a structure and plot details already laid out to follow. As is common when creating a film from a book series, many details were revised or omitted. The largest change is probably in the way colleges were looked at, mostly due to the setting of the movie—the book takes place in Virginia while the movies take place in Portland, Oregon—which alters the perception of how close Peter and Lara Jean have to be to maintain their relationship. Thinking through a rom-com lens, some of these alterations to the plot do make sense conceptually. The threat of the young couple being so far away from each other is the core of the plot and the source of conflict in many scenes. Also, for a fleeting moment, Peter’s relationship with his father is revisited, contrary to the book. A welcome change to the plot, it showed Peter’s maturity and growth as a character. So, though viewers who read the books would prefer no cuts to be made, there was a clear reason for them.

Alas, nostalgia alone can’t cover up the flaws in this movie. The biggest fault in both “Always and Forever” and “P.S. I Still Love You” were the overly mushy interactions. Some moments were incredibly predictable and overdone. Yes, in a rom-com, clichés are bound to happen, but there were some lines that were far too mushy, especially compared to the more subtle dialogue that showed the emotional development of both protagonists. Certain scenes had eloquent, believable conversation, while others were awkward and embarrassing to watch. This is also apparent in some actions taken by the characters; though most of the central plot points were realistic, others were jarring and deviated from the characters original traits. Regardless, both Centineo and Condor proved to the world that they’ve still got it as their chemistry maintained its strength throughout the film.

“To All the Boys: Always and Forever” gives viewers, who have waited years to see where Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky’s relationship will go, a satisfying and thorough ending, especially for a romantic comedy. After three movies, you’d think that audiences would be tired of this blossoming relationship, but the opposite has proven true. Being encapsulated in this story makes the public want to know so much more, and the biggest question is: what’s next? Where does our couple that we’ve watched and thought about for so long go from here? There are no more books to write off of, no more stories to tell. So from now on, that is up to us.