Weekly Movie Review: ‘To All the Boys: Always and Forever’ has many pros and cons as the final movie of a romance franchise
February 19, 2021
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Netflix introduced the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” movie franchise two years ago. First started as a novel series were written by Jenny Han, gained more popularity in 2021. The storyline follows a teenager named Lara Jean in a coming of age, romance movie. Ultimately, the storyline follows the love story between Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky, a popular and heartthrob jock and everything that comes with it. First, it was “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” in 2019, then “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” last year, and now, Netflix released “To All the Boys: Always and Forever” last Friday to finish off the romance series.
TATBILB 3 was a great ending to the franchise and satisfied the love story of Lara Jean and Peter
I would not consider myself a fan of the romantic genre, that is until I found the love story entitled “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” Also, I am a huge fan of book to movie adaptations if they are portrayed well. The first movie, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” did a phenomenal job capturing the essence of a novel to motion picture as it followed the original storyline while also adding more. Although, the second movie, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You,” did not do so great because the plot was super messy that was difficult to enjoy. With that being said, a lot of questioning was in the air about the third and final movie. I was anticipating the release of “To All the Boys: Always and Forever” and it fulfilled my expectations last Friday.
The first thing I made note of was the soundtrack. I love the Asian representation, and while I do not listen to K-Pop, it was great to see the transition into that, especially since the first couple minutes of the movie take place in Seoul, South Korea, so how could they not supplement Asian music with Asian culture?
TATBILB 3 Soundtrack by Kat Viloria
In terms of the acting, I loved it from start to finish. Lara Jean, portrayed by Lana Condor, had a huge character development throughout the entire franchise and that shows through the acting. In the scene where Lara Jean and Peter break up, you can see and feel almost every emotion Lara Jean is facing, and she does not even express it through words. You see shock, anxiousness, anger, and sadness in the span of 30 seconds, which was amazing. Now for her co-star Noah Centineo, I am not a fan of his character, Peter Kavinsky. Although, it is almost as if hating on Peter is one of its strengths. Peter does something good, then he does something bad, then he does something good, and the cycle continues. I think being able to play a character that is not everyone’s type is a great skill to have, and Centineo really did that. As a part of the audience, I felt for different characters and sympathized with them as if they were my own. Lara Jean and Peter’s love dynamic really hit it off and at times, I found myself invested and continuously relating it to my life.
The first movie was hands-down the best, so I was genuinely excited about the number of homages made in the final movie. Scenes like Gen and Lara Jean in the hallway talking about shoes or the “LJ & PK” blue heart had me jumping out of my seat and screaming excitement. It gave me so much nostalgia from the first movie and reminded me of how far their love story had drawn out.
What I did not like from start to finish was the way the plot was carried throughout the movie. I had a hard time finding what really was the conflict of the movie. Would it be about how Lara Jean keeps this secret of not getting into Stanford from Peter? No. Would it be that she chooses Berkeley? No. Would it be that she chooses New York University over Peter? No. Despite the slightly confusing plot, in the end, I love and support Lara Jean’s decision. I strongly value independence, and I am not saying that she should break up with Peter, but throughout the entire movie, she was hesitant about every single decision she made because of Peter. Thankfully, in the end, she followed her own dreams and aspirations which, to be honest, is reality. I think this movie did a great job portraying realism: High schoolers, like myself, are struggling to make big decisions that really impact their future.
Throughout the movie, I completely related to Lara Jean and her struggles. One thing that really ran deep to me was when Lara Jean was FaceTiming Peter when she was in Seoul. She talks about her feeling of disconnect from her mother’s roots. She did not understand Korean very well and just seemed off while wishing she had her mother beside her. In my case, both of my parents are Filipino, and as a first-generation Asian American, it is hard for me to fully understand my roots. I can not really speak the language well and when I visit the Philippines, I feel completely out of place.
Overall, it is the acting that made it one of its biggest strengths for me. Even though Peter was constantly victimizing himself all the time and Lara Jean only thought about Peter, many other aspects made it a good experience to go through. I give this movie an eight out of 10 because it upheld many standards I had, but it did not really relate to the book which I was hoping for. Although, they still produced a great final movie to end the franchise, and I will definitely be going back to watch the whole thing over again.
TATBILB 3 was a generic sleep-inducing romance film
I am not a huge fan of traditional romance movies. I always find it more meaningful when there is something tragic that the two have to overcome. While this is true, I was a fan of the first “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” film. Lana Condor is gorgeous, and she fantastically played the role of an awkward teenage girl. The first movie had a kind of spark that the two following it did not have. The fake-dating trope is nothing new, but Condor and Noah Centineo carried the movie with their on-screen chemistry. That paired with how fun and cheeky the film was overall [qualify]. Fast forward to this year, we are given the final film of the movie series titled “To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean.”
I was already biased going into this film as I had a feeling that it was going to be very mushy and romantic considering it was released around Valentine’s Day. However, I was not prepared for one of the most boring two hours of my life.
The movie begins in South Korea where Lara Jean and the rest of her family are staying for vacation over spring break. As someone who enjoys K-pop and Korean culture, I thought the music choices in the beginning really grabbed my attention. They were very notably successful and popular songs in the Korean pop industry, such as Girls’ Generation’s “Gee”, and that made me really excited for the movie at the start.
Music choice, to me, can really make or break a movie. While the music was nothing special, it was recognizable and fun to jam out to while watching the compilation of Lara Jean and her family in Korea. However, the music does not make up for the lack of Asian portrayal Lara Jean should have had in these scenes. She briefly touches on the fact that she feels out of place in Korea when a native Korean walks up to her and begins to speak in the language, assuming that she can speak it. She has this conversation with her boyfriend, Peter, and it just seems very rushed and brushed over. I thought it was weird to try to have this dynamic and internal cultural struggle only to shut it down after three minutes and never bring it up again in the film. It is the third film and not the main focus of it, but why bring it up in the first place?
After returning from Korea, Lara Jean and Peter talk about their future plans to go to Stanford together after graduating. They had been planning this for a while now in hopes that they could continue their relationship without having to do long distances. However, only a few scenes later when the Stanford decisions are announced, Lara Jean finds out that she did not get in. This is where the plot kind of starts to get interesting. She has to now come up with a solution to the problem which involves simply going to another college that is not too far from Stanford. I think this is when I started to get bored of the movie. She cries about not being able to go to Stanford with him for about five minutes and then it is quickly resolved, leaving the audience wondering what the next plot will be.
Apparently, the school is taking a trip to New York, I am assuming for the seniors as a class road trip, and Lara Jean brings up the fact that she applied to New York University(NYU), because her older sister, Margot, told her to do so. Her sister, who is arguably the one with the most logic in the family, tells her to look for schools outside of the ones closest to Peter, and obviously, as a teenager in love, she does not want to take this advice.
Places Visited in TATBILB: Always and Forever by Cache Merriweather
Personally, I think the entire New York experience dragged on for a little too long and just seemed like a way to promote NYU rather than actually explore why Lara Jean changes her mind from wanting to stay close to Peter to want to go to NYU. She gets invited to a party with a bunch of NYU students where they steal a pink couch from one of the student’s exes, and it just feels like this one experience is what made Lara Jean choose this over anything else. It felt lazy and uncreative. Lara Jean is supposedly a girl who is crazy in love with Peter and would do anything to be with him, but as soon as she does one obscure thing in New York her entire point of view changes. She does not nearly spend enough time in New York or exploring the campus too, in my opinion, consider moving thousands of miles away immediately. While it does take a good portion of the movie for her to come to this conclusion, it just drags on and on forever, and I was not enjoying the movie at this point.
As a senior who is also on the college selection journey, I do not think the movie portrayed this aspect very well. The internal struggle was done well, but there was no weight behind it because there was no evidence or proof apart from a stolen pink couch that she really wanted to go to NYU. She did not bother to look or visit the campus of other schools, I am assuming, so her choice is made purely based on this one innate experience. It just seems a bit ridiculous and far-fetched.
After the visit to New York, Lara Jean has to tell Peter that she wants to go to NYU. It takes a bit of time before she does, but once she does, Peter takes it surprisingly well. At least, this is what she thinks, but it is very obvious that he feels slightly betrayed by this news. He starts to distance himself and so on and so forth. I did not pay much attention to these scenes because, again, it was ridiculously boring. It is relatable, to say the least, but I just could not bring myself to really care about these characters that much. They are just a loving couple who understand and care for each other throughout the entire movie until the end when Peter breaks up with Lara Jean only for them to get back together 10 minutes later. It just seems so out of character for him to do that especially with how their relationship was portrayed.
I rate this movie a five out of ten. I do not think the movie is terrible by any means. If you are a fan of teen romance it might be something cute to watch with a significant other. With that being said, I would not watch this a second time. It bored me to death, and there were very few scenes where I was really invested. It failed to keep my interest for more than five minutes at a time, and it is really no different from a generic romance novel or film. Nothing about it made me go “wow”, and for that, I would not recommend it to anyone who is not already a fan of the genre.