Image via Netflix
We’ve all been there for one of our friends during our first or second year, cuddled up on the creaky dorm room beds comforting them with tissues and a can of Pringles because their long-distance high school relationship has finally come to an end.
It’s not a pretty picture. There’s a lot of sobbing, a lot of regret, and you are definitely thinking, “Well, shouldn’t they have seen this coming? High school relationships never last.”
This is the driving force behind the new movie “To All The Boys: Always And Forever,” the conclusion of the hit Netflix trilogy that started with “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” released in 2018.
Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), when we see them for the third time, are still the “it” couple of their Portland high school. Though not all is well in lovebird land. Lara Jean and Peter are approaching the end of their senior year, which, as we all know, comes with the dreaded college acceptance letters.
A horrifying time to be sure — I do not remember it fondly.
But Lara Jean and Peter have another problem to worry about — where their relationship is going to go in the future, after Lara Jean is denied acceptance into Stanford University, where Peter will attend on a lacrosse scholarship.
It’s not a new problem by any means, and considering that the “To All The Boys” series has stayed strictly in its cutesy high school rom-com lane, there’s no real expectation that the movie will have an unhappy ending.
There isn’t one. At first, when Lara Jean doesn’t get into Stanford, she decides to attend UC Berkeley, which is only about an hour’s drive away from Stanford.
But on the high school’s penultimate senior trip to New York City, where the entire cast of side characters play support to the Covey-Kavinsky relationship drama, Lara Jean falls in love with the artsy urban New York University campus.
Nevermind that this depiction of Manhattan is not nearly as trash-filled as reality, and that it’s more likely that NYU students would be smoking pot in Washington Square Park rather than getting a tarot card reading from some hippie-looking lady straight out of an Instacart ad.
The big city proves magical enough to tempt Lara Jean away from her and Peter’s perfectly meticulous graduation plans.
Of course, when she tells Peter this, he’s shocked and visibly disappointed, but no one wants to be the boyfriend to throw a fit over their girlfriend’s happiness. So he grins and bears it, and goes on until he can’t hold it in anymore.
There is a brief breakup in which Lara Jean pines, and Peter spends a weird scene with his dad in the iconic “To All The Boys” diner, hashing out their parental issues. Apparently Peter’s dad abandoned the family a while ago — a plot point from the first movie that never came up again, and that we all forgot.
The entire movie is full of these strange little subplots that have been shooed in from the first and second movies, like uncut strings that writers forgot about and needed to tie up.
These plots include, but are not limited to, Peter’s daddy issues and Lara Jean’s dad’s new marriage. There’s also Christine, Lara Jean’s best friend, and her on-and-off relationship with a guy named Trevor who I swear has not existed in these films until now.
These little side things feel out of place in a way — an attempt to create more tension maybe, something else to focus on besides the relationship we all know is going to work out anyway.
The dad subplot at least gets Peter’s butt in gear, reminding him that you have to fight in life for the relationships you love to work. This results in an admittedly very cute re-proclamation of love from Peter reminiscent of the first movie’s fake-dating contract.
It’s not a bad movie by any means, it’s just fine. It has very little stakes, because we all know that no matter where Lara Jean chooses to go, she and Peter will continue their relationship on a good note.
Condor and Centineo have good chemistry, and it’s a good lesson to get behind at the end — not just tossing your relationships aside because you’re afraid of it getting too hard.
But it’s probably better to watch this movie in succession with the other two, so you don’t forget all the weird subplots that they shove in at the last minute in order to increase the runtime.
Now, I’m a pessimistic person, so I’ve always been of the mind to appreciate the people in your life for the time they’re there and not expect them to be involved forever. And while I’ll admit that having this mindset for everything isn’t the best, a small dose of it can do you some good.
I think that Lara Jean and Peter realize by the end of the movie that no matter what happens to them or their relationship, they’ll have shared a time in their lives together where they were one another’s rock.
And no matter how much time passes, or the new people they meet and fall in love with, a part of them, cheesy as it may be, will love the other, always and forever.