It’s the end of an era. As I sat down to watch the third and final installment of the “To All the Boys” trilogy, I reflected on the last three years of these movies. Based on the novel written by Jenny Han, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” came out in 2018, a world that now feels drastically different from the one we’re living in today. It was a simpler time, and the first film reflects this fact.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a solid rom-com, finding a wonderful and necessary balance between romance and the unrealistic high school cheesiness that seems to be a given in all Netflix Original Movies. Unfortunately, its charm began to fade in its sequel, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” resulting in a nostalgic but ultimately unsatisfying finale: “To All the Boys: Always and Forever.”
“Always and Forever” has a simple and predictable premise. Lara Jean (Lana Condor, “Alita: Battle Angel”) and Peter (Noah Centineo, “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser”) are nearing the end of their senior year, and as they wait for their college letters, Lara Jean’s anxieties are soaring. While in the books, Lara Jean and Peter are both trying to get into the University of Virginia, the film version has them both hoping to get into Stanford. They have their entire college experiences planned out, all revolving around them being at the same school, which is obviously just setting themselves up for trouble. While Peter has already committed to play lacrosse for the school, Lara Jean has no such guarantee.
What’s missing in this movie is the same thing that was missing from “P.S. I Still Love You.” Lara Jean and Peter are made out to be a perfect couple, forever in love, but they have so many issues. They both lack the confidence and maturity to speak their minds and be honest with one another, and the problems that arise from their various misdoings could easily be squashed with a quick clarifying conversation. But, of course, without these flaws, we’d have no movie.
It still feels ridiculously frustrating when, after Lara Jean tells Peter that she’s considering going to New York University, he accuses her of wanting to end their relationship. It seems pretty obvious that she doesn’t want that at all, and that the decision is not an easy one; still, he guilt trips her and is toxic, accusatory and generally dismissive. If he really loves her, wouldn’t he want what’s best for her?
You’d think that at this point, after two entire other movies that follow a similar pattern of horrible communication, they’d understand each other better. It takes the whole movie for Peter to stop being an idiot when he finally comes to realize that it doesn’t matter where she goes to college because he still loves her and wants to be with her.
It’s not as if I was surprised by its mediocrity. It’s the third movie of an already drawn-out and cheesy rom-com series. Going in, I expected to get a very corny but nostalgic film, and that’s exactly what “Always and Forever” is. With memories of the first two films sprinkled in, you will be reminded of the long and crazy journey Lara Jean and Peter have been on. The film ends with a montage of graduation and departure for college, and there’s a feeling of hope as Lara Jean talks about how this is only just the beginning for her and Peter.
Will they last through college? Who knows. Probably not. If they can’t communicate properly when they live in the same town, chances are they’re gonna have a difficult time being in a relationship while living on opposite sides of the country. But it’s okay! Because the story is over at last, allowing Lara Jean and Peter to truly be together forever.
Daily Arts Writer Judith Lawrence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.