“To All the Boys: Always and Forever” fails to capture the magic of the first, but still passes as a watchable rom-com.
The third film in Netflix’s trilogy adapted from Jenny Han’s romance novels follows the young lovers Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo) as they navigate their senior year of high school. The year unfolds perfectly from a class trip to New York to senior prom until a decision of where to attend college threatens to tear the couple apart.
In a confusing move, both the second and third movie replaced the director of the original, Susan Johnson, with Michael Fimognari. While Fimognari does a competent job, the sequels lack some of the visual flair and style of Johnson’s first movie. It’s also odd because these movies could probably benefit from a woman’s touch considering that seems to be the target audience.
Another problem with the sequels, especially “Always and Forever,” is that they seemed to forget the comedy part of the rom-com. I checked IMDB halfway through the movie just to double-check the genre, and sure enough, it’s listed primarily as a comedy. I cracked a couple smiles throughout, but nothing resembling a laugh. The first movie balanced the humor and relationship drama much better.
It’s also very, very predictable. Not one thing surprised me. Yes, in rom-coms, we all know the guy gets the girl or vice versa. That’s fine. That’s why we love them. The predictability is stable. If you put on a rom-com, you know there’s going to be a happy ending and that it’ll probably make you feel good. But there are only so many times I can watch the same couple break up and repeat the same pattern over and over. For not one second did I doubt the outcome of the film.
I’m realizing now that I’m sounding pretty harsh, but I’m actually a big rom-com guy (go watch “About Time”), and really, this movie wasn’t that bad. For one, I’m thrilled they dropped the awful love triangles. Normally, I’m down for a good three-sided love affair (I’m looking at you Katniss, Gale and Peeta), but this series just hasn’t handled them well.
Another positive is the gorgeous production design. From the deep blues of Lara’s room to the romantic pinks and purples of prom, the colors all pop.
The strongest aspect of this trilogy, however, is the characters. Condor and Centineo continue to impress as Lara Jean and Peter. Their chemistry is palpable, and I always root for them to end up together.
The friendships and family ties are well-written too. John Corbett plays the classic teen rom-com dad well, and Anna Cathcart is always a breath of fresh air as Kitty. Both have a great dynamic with Lara Jean. Lara and Gen also got a few sweet moments. I’ve loved seeing their relationship evolve over the trilogy.
I also like how the sequels have shown what happens after the girl and the guy get together. In rom-coms, the main character confesses his or her love saying something like “you complete me” or “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her,” and then, it’s assumed they live happily ever after.
“Always and Forever” shows this isn’t how it works. There are always going to be ups and downs and things won’t always go as planned. As Lara Jean says, “Life is beautiful and messy … real love is choosing each other through all of it.”
It’s not quite the charming Valentine’s Day watch the first one was, but for fans of the series, there are worse ways to spend two hours.