The final film in Netflix’s teen romance To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, based on the books by Jenny Han, has finally dropped on Netflix. This time, protagonists Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) navigate their final year of high school, charming the audience from start to finish.
Part of the appeal of To All the Boys: Always and Forever is that it is crammed full of huge plot points that create pace, including a Song Covey family trip to Korea, a senior trip to New York, college applications, prom, graduation and a wedding. However, its not too busy. Between the big set-pieces, the lulls create space to flesh out the relationships, which are a huge part of what make this film so compelling.
Lara Jean and Peter are the focus, and a genuinely good match—and we aren’t told this, we’re shown it. We see them enjoying the same things and complementing each other—they introduce each other to films, they sneak out on a school trip to get cupcakes because Lara Jean loves baking, and they both make gestures to each other by referencing media that the other loves. Peter is also particularly close to Lara Jean’s little sister, Kitty.
Of course they make mistakes—Lara Jean lies to Peter when she’s scared of hurting him with the truth, and Peter expects Lara Jean to transfer to his college so they can be together, without considering doing it the other way around. But these things are resolved: Lara Jean tells the truth and Peter realises he has to support her in her dreams. They are supposed to be teenagers, after all, and the missteps actually make the characters more likable, not less.
However, great as our main couple are, what makes To All the Boys: Always and Forever is actually all the other relationships—because they are not sidelined. Lara Jean’s relationship with her family in particular is front and centre. The dynamic between her and sisters Kitty (Anna Cathcart) and Margot (Janel Parrish) is fantastic. We see the sisters having fun in Korea before Peter even makes it on screen, and throughout, the bickering–advice–love ratio is absolutely perfect. The scene where Lara Jean finally settles on a college and Kitty declares “I’m going to miss you a twelve, Lara Jean” is a guaranteed tearjerker moment.
And as well as great relationships, we get sensible life choices. It’s not a film where teenagers give everything up for love, nor is it a film where everything falls magically into place at the end, guaranteeing a life free from hardship. When dad Dan Covey (John Corbett) tells Lara Jean: “You can’t save this relationship by not growing,” it’s not just pretty words; the story stands up the advice.
On top of that, there is some very positive messaging about consent. On prom night, Lara Jean tries to initiate sex, for what would be their first time. Peter, however—who the series has established has had sex before and who admits in the moment that he has fantasised about this a lot—feels that something isn’t right, and turns her down. It’s a great scene: it shows female desire, which is important, and it also reminds a young audience that consent goes both ways; it is not a given that a partner will say yes, no matter their gender. We see Lara Jean’s confusion and disappointment, and then we see her back off.
An honourable mention should be given to Gen’s (Emilija Baranac) role too. She is no longer a romantic rival for Lara Jean—in fact, they are friends. This is a quietly feminist update from the book, where Gen is more-or-less written out without the two making amends.
As well as an action-packed plot and compelling relationships, this film is also gorgeous to look at. Everything is blue, pink and yellow, from pastels to the bold blue of Lara Jean’s bedroom wall. The opening scenes in Korea set up this strong visual element, and it stays present throughout—from custom pink polo shirts on a bowling date, to the sea of deep blue and yellow at graduation.
Liberal use of montages and a pastel pop soundtrack add to this dreamy vibe. There’s an amazing fantasy spiral to the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ where Lara Jean imagines her future (graduation, wedding, house, baby, job), which then runs in reverse later, when she realises her college plans may have sabotaged it. New York is so much fun it gets two montages, to Lauv’s ‘I Like Me Better’ and Suzi Wu’s ‘Eat Them Apples’. Blackpink reappear on this soundtrack too, with a little snippet of ‘Pretty Savage’.
Those who have read the books will notice differences—the chronology and geography have been shuffled around significantly (which is no change from the first two films really), and even key bits of the central romance have changed—in the book, Peter’s mum asks Lara Jean to break up with him because Peter is thinking of transferring to her college. The spirit remains, though, and films need to use broader brush strokes.
Of course, it’s not totally without fault. There is some very obvious Spotify product placement, which is off-putting. It’s also devastatingly middle class—not a single character worries about paying for college, and the Song Covey household can apparently afford foreign holidays, multiple sets of college fees, limitless baking and a not-so-lowkey wedding on one salary. Plus, more seriously, given that the closing monologue talks about how the future is uncertain and that happy endings in films are beginnings more than endings, it is a shame that this is the last we’ll see of Lara Jean and Peter.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever is a carefree, colourful jaunt through the last year of high school. It succeeds where many films before it have failed by placing equal value on all kinds of love. It showcases characters in healthy relationships making good life choices, which is great for a film aimed at teens. However, it has charm that will enchant older viewers too—the pacing is engaging without being exhausting, montage is used to great effect and the yellow, blue and pink colour palette means every shot is absolutely beautiful to look at.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever is now streaming on Netflix.
Words by Naomi Curston
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