Film Festivals

To All the Boys and the Magic of Teen Romance

Valentines day has come and gone, but it’s never the wrong time to enjoy a good rom-com. When To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before premiered on Netflix back in 2018, it was an instant hit. It was a romantic comedy resurgence, not to mention adding some much needed representation to the genre with Asian-American actress Lana Condor in the leading role. 3 years later the book series turned movie trilogy has come to an end with To All the Boys: Always and Forever, and we’re looking at how the final installment shapes up.

To All The Boys: Always and Forever (2021) via Netflix
To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021) via Netflix

This entry in the series feels different from the two that come before it. Although the first would still edge it out in a personal ‘which one is better’ ranking, Always and Forever is the most grounded in reality. There are no love triangles, catty girl drama, or contrived misunderstandings, just two kids in love trying to navigate a potential future together. So many romantic series rely on the on again off again relationship dynamic to keep the plot moving, but this movie proves you don’t need all of that to maintain a compelling story.

Before the real drama begins to set in, we get plenty of adorable moments between the main couple. It ranges from the mundane like dates at the diner or bowling, to the dreamlike, like sneaking away from a school trip in NYC to go to a bakery. All of these moments carry their own charm and authenticity. Large-scale or small-scale, Lana Condor and Noah Centineo have perfected their depiction of the magic of first love.

Lara Jean and Peter spend much of the film facing the reality that they won’t be going to college together. It’s the type of growing pain that any recent high school graduate can connect to all too well. Grappling with the possibility of losing the relationships of your hometown when moving onto college is something so relatable. You can’t help but feel for the young couple as they figure out how to plan for a future where they won’t be as accessible to the other.

Rather than break up immediately, they work through it for while until their respective insecurities about their relationship boil to the surface on prom night. They break it off, the possibility of going a few months long distance and calling it quits outweighing another option. It’s the first time in the series that an unhappy ending seems possible, but things aren’t over yet.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021) via Netflix

Of course, this series has never been known for painfully realistic endings so Lara Jean and Peter reconcile. You can argue the believability of it all but it’s an optimistic end, putting a nice bow on this whirlwind romance. Their future is up to interpretation, but I’d like to think it all worked out.

Lara Jean and Peter are the kind of sweet teen love story you can’t help but root for. Maybe it’s the way the overly saturated color palette adds to the whimsical fairytale-like concept that is finding your soulmate in high school like they did. Maybe it’s the way we’ve watched their love story unfold in a book series and now in 3 film adaptations. They’re a staple of this era of rom-coms. Always and Forever was a fitting goodbye. Filled with heartwarming moments and callbacks to the one that started it all, it’s almost like one of Lara Jean’s famous love letters. Although To All the Boys, has come to an end, it’ll continue to win over the hearts of audiences for years to come.

Cover: Netflix

About author


Jordyn Mihok is a senior at the University of Connecticut studying Communication and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her interests include movies, TV, travel, and music.
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