TO ALL THE BOYS: ALWAYS AND FOREVER (2021) brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion

The conclusion to the To All the Boys trilogy is here! After the brilliant charm of the first film introduced us to Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) and Lara Jean (Lana Condor), the second film threw that all out the window with a disastrous display of boredom. Now, To All the Boys: Always and Forever has arrived to restore balance, delivering the finale the franchise deserves.

The story this time around sees Lara Jean and Peter taking on their senior year while they work through how their respective college plans will affect their lives going forward. It’s a much more laid back and relaxed narrative, a welcome change of pace from the forced love triangles and poorly executed drama of the second entry. The simple premise really keeps the film focused entirely on Lara and Peter’s relationship, meaning the bulk of the 1 hour and 50 minute runtime is dedicated to furthering their story and their respective arcs. Without distractions and constantly being drawn into various subplots, the story moves at a much quicker pace, never dwelling on a single detail for too long. There are plot details that feel like they’re going to be painstakingly drawn out over the entire film, but the film moves on quite quickly – which is a very pleasant surprise.

There are definitely elements of the story taken from other coming-of-age romantic comedies, but the majority of what happens here feels fresh and original thanks to the depth of the lead characters. Seeing Lara navigate some of the more familiar story beats that have been done before is refreshing enough to remain engaging and feel somewhat different. It’s just a testament to the character building that has been done through the three films. In terms of the subplots, there are only really two that have any bearing on the story. One is the relationship between John Corbett’s Dr. Covey and Sarayu Blue’s Trina which flourished as the most intriguing element of the second film and is just as wholesome in here. The other is a surprise, and not the good time. It’s tied into Peter’s journey, but it’s so random and out of nowhere that it just doesn’t work. In the end, it’s kind of clear what they were going for with bringing in a certain character, but it’s just not effective.

The emotion, heart and charm of the film is evidenced through the strength of the lead performances, with Lana Condor and Noah Centineo once again perfectly embodying their characters. The two of them may be thought of as ‘ teen rom-com actors’, but there’s some nice subtlety to their performances that shows off their range. Both of their characters experience some ups and downs in the story, and they both bring their A-game in conveying those emotions through dialogue and their facial expressions. The light-hearted nature of the film is delivered predominantly through their relationship, but also helped by the supporting performances. As I mentioned, John Corbett and Sarayu are a joy to watch, but Anna Cathcart (Kitty) and Madeleine Arthur (Christine) also bring a nice touch to a number of scenes throughout. The fact that the narrative is so focused on Lara and Peter means there’s only a small group of characters who make an impact, which is pretty nice. Too many characters and moving parts would have just made this all unnecessarily busy – it’s just right as it is.

In the end, To All the Boys: Always and Forever is just a very nice, relaxed and pleasant ride the entire way through. It’s not trying to force an overly dramatic story to close out the franchise, rather it focuses on giving the characters at the centre of the story a proper sendoff. It’s heartwarming, emotional at times and runs through some of the typical ups and downs you expect to see from this genre. Fans of the franchise are sure to love it as it delivers a fantastic conclusion to the trilogy that brings everything to a satisfying close.

8/10

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