To All The Boys: Always and Forever is the third film to follow the life of the bubbly Lara Jean, and it sure feels like a third film. Like the previous two films, it allows cinematographer Michael Fimognari to maintain a colorful vibrance that keeps things visually appealing. Quite often, the tinted look is enough to spark the audience’s attention. And like its predecessor, 2020’s To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, Fimognari takes on the full directing duties. So once again, he brings to life a story from pages of a book that earned a lot of love from its readers. But like any coming of age story or teen romance, there is always something to pick at.
We see the return of our favorite love birds, Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). Lara Jean and Peter start their senior year together as a couple planning for their future together. They both hope to get into Stanford University where Peter will play lacrosse and Lara Jean will study literature. However, when Lara Jean gets denied from Stanford, this is where the real test begins. Can their love survive past high school? What does this mean for their future as they go to different colleges?
What I have always most looked forward to with the To All the Boys series is seeing Lara Jean’s bond with her father and her sisters. From the writing to the effortless acting, there truly is a unique bond between the Coveys. Margot (Janel Parrish) and Katherine aka “Kitty” (Anna Cathcart) show this chemistry that is undeniably authentic with Lara Jean. Kitty, the youngest sister, is as witty as ever and Cathcart continues to bring charm and laughter to that character. Quite honestly, the most underrated part of this film series is how well this cast works together. The jump between where these characters first started to where they are now is a testament to the strong character development and performances.
As much as I loved seeing Lara Jean navigate throughout her life, I wanted to see something in this film I did not expect. It feels too safe, to say the least. I needed a twist or surprise moment or something unexpected to happen to Lara Jean before her story wrapped up. As I waited and waited for this to happen, it didn’t. The movie ended. It ended in a bittersweet way and I enjoyed watching it. But I couldn’t help but wish Lara Jean experienced just a bit more in order to grow even more than she had. Admittedly, the characters are charming enough that it’s easy to not get too upset about the lack of innovation. Still, the fact it has no surprises is a bit of a sting considering its baggy two-hour runtime.
Despite it all, it gave us another film where a young person could relate to what Lara Jean was experiencing whether it be love, school, family, or growing up. Lara Jean being able to stay true to herself throughout this film is what makes her arc engaging. And in that regard, Fimognari and writer Katie Lovejoy absolutely nail the emotional core.
To All The Boys: Always and Forever isn’t about the coming of age story. It is not even about the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter. It is about believing in your truth and going for it. When we first met Lara Jean, she was a shy sophomore in high school. From the beginning of the first movie to the end of the third movie, her transformation into the woman she is now is an awe-inspiring thing. Lara Jean’s story may be a story we have seen written many times before, but the message this movie presents does not get old. Choosing to love someone despite all the ups and downs while staying true to yourself is what true love is. – Jacqueline Lainez
To All The Boys: Always and Forever is now streaming on Netflix
The film stars Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Emilija Baranac, Janel Parrish, and Anna Cathcart.