Though Netflix has had many original movies in its time, very few have had the success and popularity of the "To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before" trilogy. The movie trilogy, which concluded this February with the release of "To All the Boys: Always and Forever", consistently received rave reviews, and this installment is no exception. Though not as stellar as the first two movies, "Always and Forever" felt like the perfect goodbye for this acclaimed Netflix trilogy.
Always and Forever follows the characters viewers had come to know from the previous two films, as Lara Jean, Peter, Chris, Gen, and all of their friends navigate their senior year of high school. With this comes all of the traditional senior plans such as college acceptances, prom, and the senior trip, along with the ups and downs of normal teenage life.
Overall, I felt like the movie had been a good ending to the trilogy. Oftentimes with book to movie adaptations, the films start off strong with the first and second films, and by the time the third—or even fourth—movie rolls around, the production company and actors lose steam towards the project, and it can be clear in the movie produced. However, "Always and Forever" did not have this feel, and instead, it felt like a bow wrapping up the present that had been this trilogy.
This movie, much like its predecessors, had many great scenes dedicated to Lara Jean’s friends and family. While this is a romance movie, Lara Jean’s sisters and dad, as well as her friends, are just as important to her as Peter, so these scenes had been greatly appreciated by me. These scenes also seemed to be equal to, or outweigh the number of scenes between the main couple, which had been refreshing. These scenes really allowed Lara Jean to explore herself as a person, in my opinion, rather than being tethered to Peter as his girlfriend. This was definitely the case for Lara Jean exploring NYU with Gen and Chris, where viewers really got to see her become passionate about a school, rather than go simply because it had been close to Peter or a school with a great name.
With the new addition of Trina to the Song-Covey family, viewers also got great family scenes. Trina settled into her role as a maternal figure to Kitty and Lara Jean fairly naturally, and the scene where she, Kitty, and Lara Jean checked Lara Jean’s acceptance to UC Berkeley brought a smile to my face.
Other enjoyable moments had been Chris and Trevor’s ‘situationship,’ since that felt more realistic for high schoolers than Lara Jean and Peter’s strictly devoted to each other, I’ll-follow-you-to-college type of relationship. They definitely made the movie much more enjoyable for me, and I really enjoyed watching their scenes, especially during the prom. Seeing the seniors participate in normal senior activities such as prom, getting college acceptances and choosing a school, and a senior trip, had also been refreshing, since teen movies often over-do what the senior year experience is actually like.
While these moments had been great, some hadn’t hit the mark. This movie definitely took more liberties in terms of adapting the original text to the screen, and while I did not mind some of those changes, some had been fairly important to Lara Jean’s character. John Ambrose McClaren remains as a side character—though not a romantic interest—in the third novel, and he and Lara Jean have some great banter as friends. Stormy, too, remains a maternal figure for Lara Jean—though a tad eclectic at times—until her death, which had been a difficult departure for Lara Jean, Margot, and John Ambrose. These characters helped Lara Jean grow and mature, and I think not having them in the third movie, while cost-efficient, hurt her character development.
The change in setting from North Carolina to Oregon had not been a big deal to me in the first two movies, however it definitely did in this film in terms of college acceptances. In the book version of "Always and Forever", Lara Jean applies to University of Virginia, William and Mary, and University of North Carolina. While these schools have fairly low acceptance rates, it definitely seemed more believable for her to be accepted to William and Mary and University of North Carolina, rather than University of California - Berkeley and NYU. Similarly, Peter being recruited to play lacrosse at UVA had been more realistic than playing at Stanford, since as far as readers knew, he only played on the school’s team. Had they kept with in-state schools, I don’t think there would have been so much discourse, but the whole movie just felt like an ad for NYU and Stanford.
Though the focal point of the movie, Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship was just about insufferable. While I had never been a fan of Peter, I did think he had been tolerable in the first movie, however this tolerability faded in P.S. I Still Love You and had completely evaporated by Always and Forever. Peter seemed to constantly be pressuring Lara Jean into transferring to Stanford to be with him after their freshman year, even if Lara Jean had fallen in love with going to NYU permanently.
Lara Jean also had her own frustrating moments, since she continued to have the mentality that she needed to go to college in California and be close to Peter in order to have her ‘perfect’ life, even if it wasn’t going to make her happy. Her mother, before she died, and Margot both said to never go to college with a boyfriend, and Lara Jean did the exact opposite of that, which felt frustrating for viewers.
Despite its highs and lows, the To All the Boys trilogy has been beloved by fans and seen massive success for Netflix. Though bittersweet to say goodbye, the legacy of this series will remain in the hearts of those who enjoyed the series, the cast and crew, and anyone else who may enjoy it in years to come.