As the third film in an admittedly pretty great Netflix romantic comedy trilogy, To All The Boys: Always and Forever does a good job of bringing things full circle and providing an ending for our characters while still leaving the door slightly ajar in case they want to continue this series in the future. There is less of an ensemble focus here than there was in the first two movies (P.S. I Still Love You in particular) and this gives more emphasis to the complicated relationship between Lara Jean and Peter. That said, though, I think that out of the three films, this one is easily the weakest and fails to follow-up the second film’s semi-cliffhanger.
One of the most exciting elements introduced in 2020’s All the Boys sequel was the love triangle between Peter (Noah Centineo), Lara Jean (Lana Condor), and John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), and the ending of that movie seemed to suggest that elements would carry over into the final installment. The promise from this is altogether wasted as an entire film worth of content building up John Ambrose is just dropped and never mentioned again. I’m assuming this is a choice reflected in the books as well, but it comes off as a little short-sighted and leaves only a tiny amount of connective tissue (her dad in a new relationship, her best friend finding a new guy) tying things together.
The storyline here felt too familiar for my tastes personally – if you have seen any television show or movie where a couple is about to graduate and trying to figure out how to make things work long distance, you’ll recognize many of the cliches before they even arrive. The refreshing thing about the cliches in the movie, though, is that they usually have more depth to them than it appears at first. There’s a miscommunication early on in the film, but when the trope comes to light they actually handle it in a progressive way. Some facets of this are just too obvious though to the point that they become predictably blah.
In terms of direction, I noticed many more cute animated transitions here than before and the travel elements are done in a satisfying way. The touristy stuff never hits you over the head with obviousness. It made me miss NYC more than I already do! The chemistry between Noah and Lana feels every bit as natural as it did in the first movie and the journeys we follow each character on are important and vital to their futures. Lara Jean’s trip to Seoul Tower trying to locate her mom’s love padlock and Peter’s issues with his dad trying to come back into his life are handled well and mark the film at its most successful. An aura of positivity is always welcome and this movie delivers that in spades.
I think this is a mostly satisfying movie but the worst of the bunch. Without the ties to Lara Jean’s letters, there isn’t enough here to differentiate it from other similar types of projects and it doesn’t feel special in the way that the other two movies did. Even so, there isn’t a substantial dip in quality and if you already care about these characters or are invested in this world, there’s cuteness waiting for you when To All The Boys: Always and Forever starts streaming on Netflix on Friday, February 12th.