The teen romance trilogy that started with a bang is now coming to a long-awaited end. To All the Boys: Always and Forever marks the last time we’ll see the much-beloved on-screen couple, though it won’t necessarily mark the end of their love story. This time, Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) face the ups and downs of senior year of high school, coupled with the stress of the uncharted territory that awaits them after graduation.
We’re welcomed back to Lara Jean’s world during her spring break, only weeks after where the previous movie left off. She’s finally made her dream trip to Korea a reality, and we see her bond with her sisters Margot (Janel Parrish) and Kitty (Anna Cathcart) as well as with her dad (John Corbett) and soon-to-be stepmom, Trina (Sarayu Blue).
Like its predecessors, the movie’s aesthetic is artsy, modern and very pastel, complete with hand-drawn illustrations between scenes.
Lara Jean’s FaceTime sessions with Peter make clear that they’re doing great, with only one hitch: college. The pair’s future has all been naively planned out — right down to the wedding and the kids. Although Peter’s set to play lacrosse for Stanford, Lara Jean hasn’t gotten in yet, leaving a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the two. Charming and just the right tone, the film’s energetic and tension-filled introduction wastes no time immersing us into the story.
Once the Coveys get home, it’s back to life as normal. For Lara Jean, this means spending time with Peter and her best friend Chris (Madeleine Arthur), experiencing unorthodox prom proposals and planning her dad’s upcoming wedding — all while obsessing over her possible rejection. Soon, all her speculation is put to rest when she finds out, not too surprisingly for us, that she didn’t get in.
After consolation from family members and a slight mix-up with Peter, the rejection begins to serve as a catalyst that leads Lara Jean to ponder bigger questions. In particular, alternative options present themselves when she embarks on the senior trip to New York City. In another lively travel montage, she gets acquainted with the city and just maybe “falls in love” with New York University — no less than 3,000 miles away from her home and, more importantly, Peter.
The rest of the film revolves around the growing pains of a relationship in transition. It stays engaging and fairly inventive, in part thanks to the soundtrack. Songs from Cherry Bullet and Blackpink keep the film moving while paying homage to Lara Jean’s Korean heritage, and a subplot involves her and Peter searching for their perfect song.
For the most part, the will-they-won’t-they trope, with a bit of a new spin, works quite well. Both Lara Jean and Peter struggle to accept change even as the ground is shifting beneath their feet, and their daunting future believably compels them to cling to the familiar. It authentically captures the subtly terrifying anxiety that comes with being 17 and having no idea what to do.
Yet the movie certainly doesn’t escape from moments of disingenuousness. Kitty’s “romance” with a boy she had just met in Korea feels forced, and her entire character verges on being one-dimensional. In a similar vein, the rivalry-turned-friendship dynamic between Lara Jean and popular girl Gen (Emilija Baranac) seems too good to be true.
And, like most high school rom-coms, a certain level of superficiality is invariably present. Lara Jean’s considerations don’t extend much beyond her own college and relationship troubles. This leaves plot points that have potential for depth — like Peter’s absent father and Trina’s new role as the girls’ stepmother — glossed over and somewhat unresolved.
Still, the way the saga eventually draws to a close exceeds expectations, with developments in both titular characters and no shortage of important lessons to be learned. It’s an ending that certainly does the rest of the trilogy justice. Uplifting and realistically optimistic, it asks us to stay hopeful for the future while taking changes in stride, and, well, this couldn’t have come at a better time.
Ultimately the film’s success lies in the undeniable chemistry between stars Condor and Centineo, who make it easy to get invested, stay invested and root for their happily ever after — despite the lags in the story along the way. For fans of the series, this definitely isn’t one to miss. For those who aren’t, it offers a delightful sort of escapism — and perhaps a touch of nostalgia — that’s more than worth a watch.