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To All the Boys: Always and Forever 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Director: Michael Fimognari
Writers: Jenny Han (based on the novel), Katie Lovejoy
Stars: Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Sarayu Blue
In 2018, Netflix debuted To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before — a teen romcom about fake dating and very real love letters — to massive success, and now the streaming service is wrapping up the trilogy with To All the Boys: Always and Forever. Based on the third novel in Jenny Han’s To All the Boys trilogy, Always and Forever, Lara Jean, the movie brings the series’ central romance to a kind of end, all while addressing how that relationship is affected by big decisions in young peoples’ lives, like where to go to college. Michael Fimognari, who helmed the second movie in the series To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, returns to direct, this time from a script by Katie Lovejoy (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight). To All the Boys: Always and Forever tells a beautiful story of love, relationships and growing up, and gives Lara Jean and Peter a satisfying ending.
In To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) are solid as ever and planning for their future together, including attending Stanford University after graduation. However, as Lara Jean travels to Korea with her family – her father Dan (John Corbett), his girlfriend Trina (Sarayu Blue), and her sisters Margot (Janel Parrish) and Kitty (Anna Cathcart) – and New York City as part of a class trip, she finds herself reevaluating what she truly wants for her life post-high school. This forces Lara Jean and Peter to take stock of their relationship and whether they really want to try to make it work as they go off to college, or if they’ll go their separate ways.
Where the central drama of the previous two movies revolved around love triangles between Lara Jean, Peter and other boys, Always and Forever trades that in for a different kind of decision facing Lara Jean. Instead of choosing between two boys, she’s choosing between planning her life around being near Peter or following her heart and her dreams even if it puts distance between them. This slightly different spin on To All the Boys’ formula allows for a much fresher experience in Always and Forever, especially since P.S. I Still Love You felt like a rehash of the first film in many ways. It also allows Lovejoy’s script to further develop Lara Jean’s story as she grows up and has to make an even more adult decision than she did in the last movie. Of course, Lara Jean is still very much the character audiences fell in love with in To All the Boys. Even the different structure of Always and Forever (which is split up into loose chapters for various events like prom), coupled with the return of Condor’s warmly confidential voiceover, plays into the feeling of these films being Lara Jean’s diary, or her scrapbook as it were. That means it maintains the hallmarks of these movies while putting a new enough twist on the story to offer compelling developments.
While To All the Boys: Always and Forever puts more emphasis on Lara Jean’s non-romantic relationships, this is still her and Peter’s story. And, as Condor and Centineo proved from the very first film, they’ve got the kind of cute rom-com chemistry to sustain a movie franchise for much longer than three installments if Netflix so wanted, with their sweet and easy affection for each other practically sparkling onscreen. Centineo remains effortlessly charming as Peter Kavinsky, playing a (perhaps) idealized and endlessly supportive boyfriend to Lara Jean that feels completely unlike many romantic leads, likely because the character is clearly created from and for a female gaze. But, it’s still Condor who buoys Always and Forever to such sweet heights, playing the central pillar around which the film revolves and shouldering it exceptionally well. The two leads are surrounded by their strong supporting cast, with Corbett and Blue being particular standouts as they counsel Condor’s Lara Jean, while Cathcart and Parrish are excellent at bringing the multifaceted Covey sister dynamic to life.
Ultimately, To All the Boys: Always and Forever manages to keep much of what worked about the previous films, while offering something fresh and new for those who may have grown tired of the series’ tropes in P.S. I Still Love You. The story and its ending are just as sweetly hopeful and in love with love as the first two movies, with Always and Forever giving viewers the perfect escape in the dead of winter around Valentine’s Day. It’s got plenty of romance, plus enough coming-of-age drama to make the story compelling and a soundtrack just as good and varied as To All the Boys and P.S. I Still Love You. With even more K-pop than the last movie and a trip to Korea, Always and Forever also continues to honor and explore Lara Jean’s Korean roots (though, three movies later, it frustratingly still appears no one in this franchise knows how to properly do a sheet mask). There are also nods to Han’s book, including Lara Jean’s quest to perfect her chocolate chip cookie recipe as well as a cameo from Han herself, though these aspects may not be necessary to the overall story. Still, there’s something in Always and Forever for all fans of Lara Jean and Peter.
As such, To All the Boys: Always and Forever is a perfect watch for the Valentine’s Day season, whether for couples looking for a romantic watch or anyone wanting a fun, lighthearted and ultimately very sweet escapist rom-com. It’s no doubt a good thing that Always and Forever filmed at the same time as P.S. I Still Love You, meaning the production could travel around the world and shoot its Korea and New York City sequences on location, which now feels practically impossible. These scenes, too, are romanticized just as much as everything else in Lara Jean’s life, and it adds another layer to the escapism of Always and Forever, which arrives at the nearly one-year mark of a global pandemic. But while the last year has seen a dearth of blockbuster and simply fun movies, To All the Boys: Always and Forever offers a heart-meltingly sweet, warmly cheerful and charmingly hopeful romance that delivers a much-needed breath of relief amidst this cold and bleak winter.
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