In February, Netflix released the final chapter of the “To All the Boys” series based on the book series of the same name. The film, directed by Michael Fimognari, began production while the preceding movie in the trilogy, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” was still in progress. “To All the Boys: Always and Forever” follows Lara Jean Covey through her senior year of high school and makes her question what her friendships, familial bonds and relationship with her boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky, will look like after graduation.
Lara Jean, her two sisters Kitty and Margot, her father, Dan, and his girlfriend, Trina, visit Seoul for spring break of her senior year. While on the trip, Lara Jean feels connected to her late mother, who memorialized her relationship with Dan on a lock left at a love bridge. Although Lara Jean loves being in Korea, she doesn’t feel like she fully belongs because she doesn’t speak the language. She also states many times that she misses her boyfriend while on the trip, foreshadowing their struggle with the idea of a long-distance relationship in college.
When she and her family return, Lara Jean is immediately welcomed back by Peter, who is waiting with flowers and a glittery banner reading, “Welcome Home.” While talking with Peter that night, Lara Jean realizes that they did not have a meet-cute like all rom-com couples seem to have in movies; she doesn’t even remember the first time they met because they’ve known each other since they were kids. Peter, however, says that he remembers their first meeting quite well, but refuses to tell her.
This revelation provides a moment of reconciliation later in “To All the Boys: Always and Forever,” when Peter reveals that seeing her smile during their first meeting caused his heart to somersault in his chest, remarking that he “didn’t know hearts could do that.” This rapprochement occurs after the couple breaks up at prom because Lara Jean, who was originally planning to go to Stanford University with Peter, decides to go to New York University instead.
Lara Jean doesn’t get into Stanford, upsetting her and Peter’s plans to attend college together. However, soon after being rejected from Stanford, Lara Jean gets accepted into the University of California at Berkeley, which is only an hour away from Stanford. She and Peter devise a plan to do long distance for a year while she’s at Berkeley until she can transfer to Stanford after her freshman year.
However, this plan gets blown up when the senior class takes a trip to New York City and Lara Jean falls in love with NYU. After revealing to Peter that she wants to go to NYU, the pair seems to drift apart until Peter ultimately breaks the relationship off after their prom. He says that he doesn’t want to hold onto their relationship just to break up a week into the fall semester due to the 3,000 miles between them.
Despite the fact that Peter broke up with her, Lara Jean stays true to herself. She knows that NYU is where she belongs. Instead of choosing between two boys as she has in the past two “To All the Boys” films, in this movie Lara Jean chooses herself.
In an interview with The New York Times, the actress who played Lara Jean, Lana Condor, said, “So I was just hellbent; I was constantly talking to the director and the producers and writers and everyone like, ‘You guys, we need to show her stepping into the world as a young woman choosing herself for the first time.’”
However, a heartbroken Lara Jean still has to help plan her father’s wedding to Trina, who had gotten engaged the night they all got back from Korea. At the same time, Peter has a revelation after talking with his estranged father that love takes hard work, and that he has to try his hardest to make his relationship with Lara Jean work.
Peter and Kitty conspire to create a romantic gesture in which Peter surprises Lara Jean after the wedding. He gives her a letter that tells the story of their first meeting in sixth grade along with a contract, reminiscent of the one from the first “To All the Boys” movie, to love each other despite the distance that would remain between them for the next four years, which they both sign.
The “To All the Boys” trilogy has just about every rom-com trope in history: the boy next door, a doomed love triangle, meet-cutes and a fake relationship that ends up being real. “Always and Forever” is a teen rom-com dream featuring promposals, senior trips and a devastating breakup with an almost idyllic make up. Coming out just two days before Feb. 14, the movie is a perfect Valentine’s Day watch.
“To All the Boys: Always and Forever” ends with Lara Jean reflecting on her love for Peter as she is seen moving into her dorm at NYU. She says that her relationship with Peter will stay strong regardless of what movies and stereotypes tell her about long-distance relationships. In her optimism, Lara Jean remarks that the 3,000 miles between her and Peter will offer them the opportunity to write love letters to each other.
Although people may see the film as unrealistic, corny or naive, “To All the Boys: Always and Forever” offers a hopeful outlook that seems to be missing from a cynical hookup culture. The movie provides a breath of fresh air for young adults who are swiping left and attending “hangouts” instead of dates.
Condor said, “But I know for a fact that they’re going to get married; they’re going to live happily ever after.” However, her faith isn’t necessarily needed because Lara Jean’s commitment to herself, her quirks and her optimism lets the viewers know that, no matter what, Lara Jean will live happily ever after — with or without Peter.