Teen romcoms almost always finish with a happy ending. Take Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, The Kissing Booth – they all climax with a couple falling into each other’s arms, becoming homecoming royalty or pledging they’ll stay together forever. To All The Boys: Always and Forever offers a rare chance to see what happens next.
The new Netflix threequel picks up with Lara Jean (Lana Condor) at a happy time in her life. She and jock boyfriend Peter (Noah Centineo) are snugly cocooned in a love bubble, determined to beat the odds and remain together throughout college. While the first – and the best – film in the franchise, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, saw the pair’s fake relationship blossom from strictly business to accidental love-fest, the dreary follow-up P.S. I Still Love You witnessed their fledgling relationship rocked by exes and old flames. But in the new film, Lara Jean and Peter seem secure.
Now high school seniors, they’re looking forward to attending Stanford University together which, in an earnest voiceover, Lara Jean tells us is “the perfect school for us. He’ll play lacrosse, I’ll study English Lit, and best of all we won’t be one of those couples that breaks up because of college.” Lara Jean considers this the first step in the rest of their lives together, but plans are curtailed when she receives a rejection letter. Instead, the keen student is offered a place at nearby Berkeley, which Peter urges her to take so they can still visit. However, a school trip to New York shows LJ what her life could be like on the other side of the country, putting a 2,800-mile rift in their relationship.
Peter and Lara Jean’s quirky back-and-forth makes for watchable romcom fodder. Condor and Centineo do well to convey the confused teen emotions we’ve all experienced at some point, even if the script they’ve been given is at times lacking. Peter’s frustration that LJ won’t just cave and go to a convenient college near him shows a youthful perverseness – a self-centred 18-year-old who’s terrified of change (though at times he’s written as a toddler chucking his toys out of the pram). Meanwhile, Condor poignantly depicts Lara Jean’s heartbreak over hurting those she cares about (although sometimes, you just want her to stand up for herself).
Behind the hormone-fuelled arguments and mawkish romance, there are quiet moments that add heft to the narrative. Peter’s estranged father desperately wants to reconnect with his son, and though he’s insistent they’ll never be a family, LJ encourages a meeting between the two. Elsewhere, Lara Jean’s dad, Dr. Covey (John Corbett), proposes to his partner Trina (Sarayu Blue), and the new unit adjusts as Trina tests her step mum skills while trying not to overstep any boundaries.
Ultimately, it’s low stakes stuff. You don’t have to worry about any major peril, it’s full of comforting visuals and the soundtrack is stuffed with fluffy pop songs (Toploader, Spice Girls, BLACKPINK). You can largely predict what will happen, but that’s okay. To All The Boys: Always and Forever is sweet, sleek and has plenty of charm. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
- Director: Michael Fimognari
- Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Madeleine Arthur
- Release date: February 12 (Netflix)