To All the Boys: Always and Forever
The final film in the trilogy closes out predictably with a flash of character introspection
The To All the Boys trilogy has proven to be a surprising hit adaptation from the popular books. The first film proved to be a sweet romantic comedy at a time when the genre had petered out and was finding a new home at streamers. With the rebirth of rom coms on Netflix, the freshness of To All the Boys I Loved Before (2018) seemed to meld into the background, thus leading to a very forgettable sequel, To All The Boys: PS I Still Love You (2020), but whose fan base has pushed the story towards its final entry in the trilogy: To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021).
To All The Boys: Always and Forever continues to follow the romance of high schoolers Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo). They’re now in their senior year of high school and are hoping to go off as a couple to the same college as well. However, the admissions expectations do not go according to plan and a trip to New York leaves Lara Jean questioning what here priorities in college should be, her own love for a city and college, or following her boyfriend?
I have to say, coming off of P.S. I Still Love You, this film is a big improvement. The problem with
the second film in this trilogy is that it moves its characters nowhere. In fact, if you were to skip the second entry you would not notice anything different between the character projections in the first and third films. This is an encouraging improvement thus for director Michael Fimognari, who has been an impressive cinematographer for Mike Flannagan’s horror films (Doctor Sleep (2019), Gerald’s Game (2017)), and who made his directorial debut in P.S. I Still Love You. Fimognari still hasn’t developed a specific style or taken risks with his filmmaking; he seems to be content with playing it safe within the expectations of the romantic comedy genre. However, he was thankfully given better material to spin a story with this time around.
Always and Forever proves to have more of an introspection with its characters than the other films in the trilogy. I was pleased that the film showed young viewers that one should be prioritizing themselves over others in a relationship. Something that might sound selfish, but which forms the basis of being a healthy person for oneself and others. That doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t slide back into cheesy and fantastical elements that make the more analytical adults facepalm themselves, but the prodding questions do prove to be encouraging sprinkles of maturity in the otherwise stale genre.
Regardless, Always and Forever isn’t able to throw off the generic shackles of the romantic streaming movie, and as thus even the sliver of intriguing character work proves to be fleeting. The film can’t resist indulging in what viewers expect in such a film, be it the grand gestures, references to other romantic films, or confessions of undying love. If that’s what you’re searching for on Valentine’s Day, then Always and Forever can prove to be a suitable supplement. As the bookend of a trilogy, it wraps things up in a satisfying if overly saccharine way, leaning heavily into the charisma of its two stars to sell the core relationship of the story. It seems hard to criticize such a film with a harsh eye, since the filmmakers are clearly crafting the film for the specific generic escapism. Thus, I’ll be lenient to simply qualify it as occasionally boring if sweetly predictable flick.