To All the Boys: Always and Forever
The third instalment of the teen rom-com To All the Boys: Always and Forever is an excitable throwback to prom days that will evoke either fond memories or shudders. Based on the eponymous novels by Jenny Han, the film follows 17-year-old Lara-Jean (Lana Condor) and her high-school sweetheart, Peter (Noah Centineo), as they navigate the transition to college and its ever-changing possibilities. With its fast pace, it’s a feature of bright lights and abundance, epitomising the dynamic transformations of a teenager’s life in the modern media age.
Many may find the pair hard to swallow initially. A sickly sweet spring break reunion sets the tone for pastels, cupcakes and rosy-cheeked romantic gestures, but the nature of the genre warrants it. Luckily little sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) is an incisive addition, providing the savvy comebacks viewers are likely thinking in response to some precedent melodrama.
Loosely holding themselves to unattainable rom-com standards, LJ and Peter have high expectations as they plan to attend the same college and flourish as an unbreakable couple “always and forever”. However, they are also worried about what they hear about relationships ruined by long distance. When she is rejected from Stanford, Peter’s university choice, LJ’s fears become reality.
Condor is extremely amiable, managing to counterbalance the movie’s cheesy notes as she evolves into a young woman. Although while she makes bold decisions for the benefit of her own future, there is some weak script delivery from Centineo. A key scene featuring the return of his wayward father lacks compelling traction, and he misses the opportunity to develop his character beyond LJ’s playful puppy companion. However, he is hard to dislike with his overall friendly, inoffensive performance.
A charming set of characters creates an affable balance of humour and heartache as they manage prevalent obstacles to teenagers whose first significant leap into the unknown is imminent. As LJ grows enamoured with New York and gradually realises the pitfalls of planning her life around a boyfriend, her character only becomes more admirable. Plus, the film makes respectable points in favour of taking healthy advice from loving, older family members.
Looking past a few sugary clichés, To All the Boys is a fun, benevolent approach to a tricky stage of life, offering warm-hearted optimism and celebrating brave growth over comfort zones, even with romance-muddling matters. LJ presents a charismatic role model and a worthy message for the impressionable audience it appeals to.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever is released on Netflix on 12th February 2021.
Watch the trailer for To All the Boys: Always and Forever here: