Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Anchor Staff Writer
In time for Valentine’s Day, Netflix released the final film of its To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before franchise: Always and Forever. Based on the series of the same name by author Jenny Han, the final installment follows Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) as they navigate their relationship amid college decisions during their last few months of high school.
Taking place in an alternative, pandemic-free 2021, the film starts with Lara Jean and her family on spring break in Korea, depicting montages of Seoul that those of us with longings to travel again can vicariously enjoy. After returning from spring break, Lara Jean anxiously waits to hear from Stanford, which Peter has already been accepted to on a sports scholarship, so that way they can attend college together. After finding out she did not get in, she recalibrates with a plan to go to UC Berkeley an hour away so she and Peter can stay together. However, after a class trip to New York, Lara Jean realizes NYU might be calling her name.
After a disappointing second film, the third is careful to avoid the pitfalls that made its predecessor less enjoyable for fans and critics alike. Though there is, of course, conflict, it never makes the viewer feel that Lara Jean and Peter shouldn’t actually be together, a major flaw of the second film. Indeed, Always and Forever often leans on the original film, with at least five parallels or other callbacks to the first To All the Boys film. Rather than feeling like cheap recycling of old material, the parallels feel comforting. The story is coming full circle and these sequences are wrapping this period of the characters’ journeys up in neat little bows. In a time of so much uncertainty, there’s something nice about closing a story so neatly.
The film is not groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a good film. While a bit predictable, the film does what it aims to, providing fluffy escapism that is guaranteed to make any romance fan smile. It may not be for everyone, but it is unlikely those who don’t enjoy the genre would be watching the third film in a romantic comedy series to begin with. Overall, the film is soft and warm, like pulling on an old sweater you used to wear all the time. It may not be the most original movie out there, but it's sweet, familiar, and worth a watch.