To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021)
To All the Boys: Always and Forever starts where most teen, high school rom coms do, senior year. Lara Jean is on a family trip to Seoul for Spring Break and is getting a taste of what a long distance relationship would be like. Fear not, Lara Jean and Peter have a plan. They will both be going to Stanford and spend four blissful college years together before starting the rest of their life.
The one issue, Lara Jean hasn't gotten in yet. Cue the manufactured drama.
Shocker, Lara Jean doesn't get into Stanford. She has a back up of UC Berkeley but their brilliant plan is starting to fall apart. Cue more drama!
On a school trip to New York City Lara Jean falls in love with NYU and the city. New York has a certain magic to it. It is the host of many a rom-com (add this one to the count) and even gets Chris and Gen to get along despite their general hatred towards each other. Shifting her decision to go to NYU she has the unenviable position between choosing between what is right for her and the love of her life.
The acting has been pretty steady across the films with Lana Condor carrying a lot of the load which isn't easy especially across three films and at a young age. Noah Centineo as always is the charmer (and younger Mark Ruffalo) we all know and love.
Anna Cathcart as Kitty is still my favourite. She is the meddler who gets the story going but quick with the quips and clearly the coolest sister. Perhaps I am biased as the youngest child myself.
Honestly, I was never particularly elated with Janel Parrish's performances. Maybe it's the dialogue or the character or maybe she just gets outshined by her younger co-stars. I think she could have been replaced with just about anyone and it would have been the same. Not saying she is a bad actress, just not a memorable one.
I like John Corbett, it took 20 years but he's much better as the father figure rather than the love interest for me. For the longest time he was just Lars from Serendipity (one of a couple of John Cusack movies that get name dropped in this one) even though he's had bigger and better roles since then.
Soundtrack wise, it has a lot of music that I have never heard (I am a grandpa in that respect). There are a couple pop hits of as well as a couple of throwbacks (some Oasis and Spice Girls, and a real oldie in Little Richard's Tutti Frutti). Singer/songwriter Leah Nobel provides Lara Jean and Peter's song Beginning Middle End, which I admit is great for those cinematic film swells. You can check out the full song list here.
Visually, I love the sketchbook aesthetic that is seen in the Korean café at the beginning that carries over into some parts of the rest of the film. The pastel-y blues and pinks are ever present and give the film a solid pop.
It's the longest of the three but only by about 15 minutes. Pacing wise, it didn't drag on for me but I'm a sucker for a teen romance movie so I'll sit through just about anything.
From a story point of view I was pretty satisfied but a part of me wishes they hadn't gotten back together at the end. Even without each other, they could have still been happy. Peter reconciling with his estranged father and Lara Jean experiencing and finding herself in New York. Both of them would still have fond memories of their time together and as like the meaning behind Don't Look Back in Anger (which is an obvious choice if you have to pick any Oasis song).
Teen rom coms are a little too sickly sweet sometimes. Often relying only on the milk or white chocolate, happy tropes that they forget to infuse real meaning or lessons. I think a great movie isn't afraid to use some dark chocolate to give it that bittersweet flavour.
I would have liked a lesson to be learned that breaking up in high school is not the end of the world and that you still be happy and grow on your own. That you don't have to see an ex as a bad thing, just something in the past but I think that is asking a little too much from this type of story.
It's a little too idyllic and pristine, despite a decent attempt at real drama, but ultimately I still loved it and I'm sure to watch it again soon. I think is a good ending to the series and for me an improvement on a middle film that is almost entirely forgettable. It gives hope to love, especially young love. My heart goes out to the high school generation who have had it some of the hardest in the state of the world not being able to have these experiences for themselves.
- Janel Parrish gets higher billing than Anna Cathcart which I certainly don't agree with. Kitty is the superior character in the films and I'm pretty sure has more screen time. For the same reason I am not sure why Madeleine Arthur as Chris gets bumped a spot lower than Ross Butler in the credits.
- I was a little slow on watching first installment, To All the Boys I Loved Before, but for both the second installment, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love you, and this third and last film in the trilogy, To All the Boys: Always and Forever, I watched them the day of release.
- Trying to use Google's 'what song' feature, it was not able to find Beginning Middle End as it was too new for the database to track apparently. There are limits to the almighty Google after all.