Netflix’s “To All the Boys: Always and Forever,” the final installment of the “To All the Boys” trilogy, is the romantic comedy that will make you root for the couple to break up. The series that started with an innocent misunderstanding about a young girl’s secret love letters ended with two people who are so wrong for each other making a seemingly permanent commitment to each other.
Seriously. Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) is a jock bound for Stanford who likes to kiss bowling balls (not a great example to set during a pandemic) and flinches when taking off his sheet face mask, as though it were a jellyfish that stung him. Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) is a homebody who gets into wacky instances of miscommunication for the plot’s sake and bakes when it’s been too long since the film featured an aesthetic shot from above. Overall, they are one of the most average couples to ever grace the silver screen. Though there were moments in the first and second movies of the series where I thought they might get a little interesting, this newest installment confirmed that my hopes were in vain. The whole premise of the movie is that their high school relationship might end when they go off to college... Oh no. What a shame that would be. It’s a plot that could be transplanted onto any other teen romance couple and it wouldn’t change the movie much at all.
In this movie, we don’t even have the added bonus of Jordan Fisher as John Ambrose McLaren, the dreamy, superior love interest from “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You.” It’s too bad he just showed up to add a conflict in Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship that ended up not really mattering in the end. For the entirely unnecessary two whole hours of the film, all I could think was “Lara Jean gave up John Ambrose McLaren for this? Really?” and “They got to have a 2021 without a pandemic and this is what they chose to do with it?”
The whole movie tries unbearably hard to be relatable — with its quirky face masks, silly prom pictures, endearingly annoying little siblings and break up Ben & Jerry’s — and then proceeds to feature the least relatable high schoolers around. Firstly, the colleges the two of them are torn between are Stanford, UC Berkeley and NYU, despite the fact that they spend all three movies moping around about their relationship instead of, I don’t know, going to class. They are, in fact, so far above the average high schooler that they end the movie with the literal line: “We’re not like other couples. We’re Lara Jean and Peter.” So, sorry to anyone who broke up with their high school sweetheart when they went to different colleges, but Lara Jean and Peter are just built different. Their relationship is super special because they go bowling together, and he puts his hand in her back pocket when they walk through the cafeteria, I guess.
I would say I can’t believe this couple still ended up together after all the clear signs that they’re incompatible with incredibly different values and goals, but of course, I can believe that a movie with such disappointing characters would have a disappointing ending as well. They could have made Lara Jean’s story a compelling coming-of-age journey where she learns to let go of her unrealistic romantic fantasies like she had to do in the first “To All the Boys” movie when it came to giving up on her dreams of being with her first real crush, Josh (Israel Broussard). But instead, “To All the Boys: Always and Forever” molds Lara Jean into a young girl whose state of happiness is entirely dependent on her relationship with a high school lacrosse player. Yes, she does decide to go to NYU when she could have gone to UC Berkeley to be closer with him, but he is still very clearly the focal point of her life — made obvious by how the first thing she does after arriving at NYU is pin a picture of them together to her wall.