“Whoa, whoa, whoa!”
With these words came the meet-cute of one of the most iconic rom-com couples of our generation; Lara Jean Song Covey and Peter Kavinsky. The 2018 film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before garnered a record-breaking amount of fans, making it one of Netflix’s most-viewed original films ever. Its sequel, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, followed suit, and no, the beloved series comes to an end with the recent release of To All the Boys: Always and Forever.
As someone who has been a devout fan of the book series (written by Jenny Han) that the movies are based on since 2014, it goes without saying that I had high expectations for Always and Forever. As someone with a deep connection to the TATB series, I liked the second movie, but I’ll admit it wasn’t my favorite. However, I found Always and Forever to be a perfect farewell to one of my most loved and related-to characters; Lara Jean.
Of course, the insanely talented Lana Condor continued to be the perfect LJ, matching her sweet, bubbly, and slightly awkward and anxious personality to a tee. Chris, portrayed by Madeleine Arthur, has always been a favorite of mine, but I didn’t expect to like Genevieve (Emilija Baranac) as much as I did. Something I’ve always appreciated about this series is its focus on not only romantic relationships but also friendly ones, and LJ and Gen have an especially interesting development. While it initially seemed like their mutual interest in Peter led to some petty moments, the second film saw them reconcile and they grew even closer in the third. Female friendships are important, and I’m glad TATB didn’t make two strong women fall out over a boy.
As someone who goes to school in New York City, the field trip was a highlight of my viewing experience. Seeing so many of my favorite places, from Levain Bakery to the New York Public Library, Washington Square Park, and my neighborhood by the World Trade Center, was an emotional experience considering the fact that I’m currently attending school from my hometown. What’s more, I saw myself in LJ as we got to watch her fall in love with the city. It’s so unique in its people, places, and activities- any New Yorker will go on and on about their love for the city and all its flaws (as Gen said to LJ, “I saw the way you looked at New York- it was love at first sight”). I also liked that we got to see her spend time outside of her romantic relationship in NYC and discover herself and what she wants for her own future.
On the surface Always and Forever has the same gorgeous aesthetic and costuming of the first two films (plus a few travel montages), it has an important central message; change is terrifying, but necessary. After assuming they’d attend the same school, Peter and LJ face the frightening reality of spending their college years 3,000 miles apart. One of the best lines came from Mr. Covey himself when he told LJ “you can’t save this relationship by not growing.”
Something I’ve seen fans criticize Lara Jean for is the fact that she hesitated to commit to NYU even though she knew it was the college that would make her happiest. However, it wasn’t just Peter that was holding her back (although his “you don’t love me enough if you won’t give up your happiness to follow me” comment irritated me, to say the least)- it was also because of her sisters. This trilogy has done a great job of ensuring that LJ isn’t a one-dimensional character who doesn’t have a personality of her own- instead, there’s plenty of emphasis on her relationship with her sisters (the realistic good and bad) and her culture. She has an attachment to them- of course she wouldn’t want to be across the country from them.