By Zoe Talbot
In the third and final installment of the “To All The Boys” series, Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) prepare for the college experience and what the future holds. As senior year progresses and the two reflect on their passions, careers and relationship, Lara Jean must decide whether or not her college plans include her beau at all.
The film begins in South Korea, where the Song-Coveys are vacationing for spring break. It feels like a beautiful place to start, connecting the family to their late wife and mother. Peter and Lara Jean initially bonded discussing their parents in the original, and this sort of vulnerability has come full circle to wanting to have the romance her parents shared. Love for Lara Jean has evolved from an unattainable ideal in romance novels to the tangible “moments people think no one else sees,” where love shines brightest.
Once senior year begins, Peter’s mind is already at Stanford, his dream college to which he has already gotten a scholarship for lacrosse. He wants nothing more than to have his girlfriend by his side and to not have to say goodbye to her. However, Lara Jean has big dreams, and feels she might be better suited elsewhere. How is she supposed to know where she belongs until she makes a choice? She finally has the perfect boy, but distance does not discriminate when it comes to breaking hearts.
Condor and Centineo have always had a chemistry that makes them seem inseparable. Whether it be laughter, stolen kisses, or scenes of tension, the couple always manages to come off as if this is their life and their story. The hopeless romantic and athlete with a heart of gold is not a new story, but our protagonists still take your breath away with their compassion and a sincerity that echoes from their first kiss on the school’s track to the very last. While the actors have grown a lot since the first film, and probably matured out of the high-school characters, they still maintain an on-screen presence that engulfs you in a high school drama regardless of where you are in your life.
Even so, the element that separates “To All the Boys” as a franchise from all others of its genre is not the acting or the couple, but the family that would give anything for one another. Whether it be young and spritely sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart), or a father doing his best to raise three daughters on his own (John Corbett), the Song-Coveys are a fun-loving family who fill every second on screen with a heartwarming glow. They trust each other to do what is right and look out for each other when blinded by love or otherwise. While the family aspect is not as emphasized as in the first two films, there is still something to be said about how this family has grown together. While Kitty is usually very comedic and witty, her emotional moments with Lara Jean create a softened atmosphere for the audience to melt into as another child leaves home.
The film also stands out through its thematic elements. Lara Jean is a creative and artsy person — depicted through her wall collages and sweet projects for Peter — and this is reflected through “The Notebook”-looking sequences and artsy transitions. My favorite part of this implication is how Lara Jean has grown. Her romance begins through her letters, sent out to her crushes in the beginning of the franchise as a possibility. Now, her dreams are materialized from doodles, as if her dreams projected onto those letters are now coming off of the paper to become her life and become another full circle moment.
The movie also has a memorable soundtrack, from those played over shots of New York City to the band “Oasis” that Peter insists Lara Jean listen to. They even spend a portion of the movie trying to establish a song for their relationship, and the search creates a sentiment that they will be there for each other through the “beginning, middle, and end” of their lives. While the conflict of the film is not as strong as the others, these elements make the movie a cute and loveable finale to the series.
“To All The Boys: Always and Forever” is the perfect Valentine’s Day flick no matter who you’re spending it with, and I would most definitely recommend streaming it. Especially in a time where it is hard to see our loved ones, Lara Jean and Peter remind us that distance isn’t always a deal breaker and that love can and will persist.