Romance faces reality in wholesome ‘To All The Boys: Always And Forever’

Photo of a scene in the film "To All the Boys I Loved Before 3"
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Grade: 3.5/5.0

In a time where distance makes it difficult to connect with loved ones, the arrival of the conclusion to Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky’s heartwarming story is a well-timed reminder that love can outlast strenuous times.

Released Feb. 12 and directed by Michael Fimognari, “Always And Forever” is the last installment of Netflix’s beloved “To All The Boys” series, a teen romantic comedy trilogy based on Jenny Han’s YA book series. A year after accidentally sending her crush Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) an old love letter, senior Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) is now in a thriving relationship with her better half. But with graduation approaching, their relationship is soon put into question as Lara Jean struggles to make her college decision.

Entertaining, joyous and surprisingly poignant, “Always And Forever” finds solace in farewell as the most mature film of the trilogy. Where the first film was fun but cheesy romance and the second simply an uninspired, unnecessary love triangle, this last installment features fewer filler dates and instead asks more important questions.

Every romantic comedy relies on impracticalities, but “Always And Forever” manages to keep its unrealistic moments to a minimum. At moments of rising tension between Lara Jean and Peter, viewers hold their breath in anticipation of the perfect relationship finally melting into a messy, chaotic conflict. But exaggerated, superfluous conflict is nowhere to be found — in fact, unlike some romantic comedies that glamorize toxicity, this film actually portrays a rather healthy relationship. 

Balancing charming and mawkish just enough to be the right level of heartwarming, the exquisite chemistry between Condor and Centineo carries the film. Centineo, though known as Netflix’s weary go-to love interest, brings kindhearted charm as a naive but endearing Peter. Centineo still portrays Peter as his overly confident self, but with the discussion of future plans in “Always And Forever,” he’s challenged to portray a more vulnerable side of his character. He’s admittedly a wonderful counterpart to Condor, who is the epitome of thoughtfulness and brilliance.

“Always And Forever” undeniably shines with Lara Jean at its center. The movie excels mainly because it doesn’t portray Lara Jean as a single-minded hopeless romantic. The film shows her learning to put herself first, and while her romantic relationship is obviously a major focus of the film, the creators are careful to emphasize that her life doesn’t revolve around solely Peter: It’s not just a love story, but Lara Jean’s story.

Part of this emphasis comes from the film’s delightful new settings. Featuring a bit of adventurous travel, Lara Jean’s desire for exploration comes into focus as she admires the lights sparkling across New York City and the brightly colored padlocks decorating rails at Seoul Tower. In this way, the film’s artistic aesthetic helps show Lara Jean that there’s color and life beyond her hometown.

Furthermore, “Always And Forever” preserves the perfect pastel color palette that the “To All The Boys” franchise is known for. Lara Jean’s stunningly stylish outfits come in soft but striking hues, and her bedroom is a paradoxical organized mess with papers and souvenirs strewn about almost beautifully. Among pops of bubblegum pink and vibrant turquoise, this exemplary aesthetic is accompanied by animated transitions unique to the third film — shifting lines and meticulous pencil sketches morph into real life scenes.

However, a film can only rely on an aesthetic for so long. Though they don’t glaringly detract from the film, there are a few subplot lines that never come full circle. Peter’s brief conflict with his father is irrelevant and distracting, and Lara Jean’s stepmom isn’t given enough screen time to fully develop as the family’s new mother figure.

Yet despite its minor faults, “Always And Forever” provides satisfying closure to the “To All The Boys” franchise. Contrary to how the initial film began, Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship isn’t a love letter, but a love story still being written. Saying goodbye is never easy, but sweethearts Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky prove that love can last long-distance.

Contact Taila Lee at [email protected].