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The final installment of the To All the Boys trilogy aired to audiences Friday on Netflix, marking the end of an era for fans just in time for Valentine’s Day. The film series began in 2018 adapting the book series of the same name by Jenny Han. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before sparked a resurgence to the beloved romantic-comedy movie genre as well as began a modern era of rom-coms that Netflix would provide soon after.
There were so many things to love about To All the Boys which made the films so popular: fake relationships turned real, constant love triangles, and most importantly, unprecedented representation for identities typically underrepresented within the romance genre.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Lana Condor, who plays Lara Jean Covey in the films, reflected on what it meant to be one of the few Asian-American actresses to headline a romantic comedy. She states, “I read the book immediately before the audition, and that’s when I was like, OK, this I have to have. Because this is an Asian-American girl falling in love and this is something we need to see.”
And we’re so glad we got to see it.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever, directed by Michael Fimognari, chronicles the final chapter of Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky’s (Noah Centineo) highschool romance. The pair are in the final semester of their senior year of high school, preparing for their freshman year of college. Peter and Lara Jean are hoping they can attend Stanford University together to effectively continue their relationship together.
However, things don’t go to plan when Lara Jean receives a rejection letter from Stanford, which meant that she didn’t get in alongside Peter. This threatens to put a wrench in their potential future together, but the surprises don’t stop there.
The kids take a senior trip to New York City wherein Lara Jean proceeds to fall in love with the city and NYU campus. After Lara Jean receives an acceptance letter from NYU upon returning home, she grapples between the choices of satisfying her own happiness or Peter’s. She ultimately (and rightfully) chooses to attend NYU in the fall to Peter’s dismay, causing the two to break up on Prom night.
The final arcs for both their characters consist of Peter learning to heal from his trauma surrounding abandonment and be okay with Lara Jean making decisions that don’t directly involve him. Lara Jean must also learn to be comfortable to make her own decisions without guilt.
Together, they decide to continue their relationship despite the distance that will be between them. As Peter stated to Lara Jean in their post-breakup reunion, “I never want to be the guy holding you back. [Instead] I want to be the one by your side.” That’s what we call growth.
All in all, To All the Boys: Always and Forever provided a satisfying end to one of the best modern romantic-comedy films. It contained all of the charm and aesthetics from the first two movies, gave the characters great concluding arcs (including a redemption arc for Gen (Emilija Baranac) that I was surprisingly here for, and ended with our favs, Lara Jean and Peter, staying together.
Although, Peter’s arc involving his father, played by Henry Thomas, could have had a more satisfying conclusion. For context, Peter discussed with Lara Jean in the first film that his dad left him, his mom, and his younger brother, eventually re-marrying and having two more sons with a new wife.
His dad never spoke to Peter nor his brother and left Peter’s mom to finish raising their two sons by herself. This fostered a deep and complicated resentment for Peter towards his father and he has had trouble coping with the abandonment ever since.
When Peter finally agrees to meet his dad for lunch in the third film, this showcases a significant point of growth for him. However, his dad never gives a legitimate reason for fathering another family and abandoning his son while still living in the same city as Peter. Nevertheless, I’m glad Peter was able to move towards forgiveness and potentially having a relationship with his father for the sake of his own peace as well as his relationship with Lara Jean.
Correspondingly, Lara Jean’s growth was especially refreshing to witness over the course of the three movies. Lara Jean evolves from a naive hopeless romantic who clumsily stumbles into relationships, conflicts, and/or love triangles with boys. Now, she’s shown how much she has matured since audiences first met her. Lara Jean is now a woman who knows what she wants and knows to always pick herself first.
In the three years since the first film landed, we’ve seen Lara Jean cross many milestones: her first boyfriend, prom, graduation, her first time having sex with said boyfriend, etc. in a slow-paced, gradual arc that felt real. She’s dealt with expressing grief, finding her confidence, and also allowing her loved ones to guide her when it’s necessary; all of which allows Lara Jean to be relatable for so many people.
At the same time, Lara Jean being one of the few Asian-American leads in a romantic comedy without being sexualized or exoticized, having her Korean culture be a part of each film in an authentic manner, and being able to openly discuss tribulations that come with her Americanized Asian identity with her white boyfriend, allowed for other Asian-American girls and non-binary femmes to feel seen in ways they may not have before.
Hopefully, To All the Boys won’t be the last great romantic-comedy we see on Netflix that provides good representation, evokes the right nostalgia, and fulfills some of the best rom-com tropes in a way that is familiar yet refreshing and not problematic. Although I’m sad these films are coming to an end, I’m glad we all got to experience what will be one of the greatest rom-coms of the 2010s.
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