Netflix wraps up its hit rom-com trilogy “To All the Boys” with “To All The Boys: Always and Forever,” which encapsulates all of the highs and lows of senior year of high school. From senior trip to graduation, the final film focuses on themes of self-discovery and change as the group prepares for their life after high school.
Netflix’s “To All The Boys: Always and Forever”
The trilogy, adapted from Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys” book series, follows the life of high school student Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor), who writes love letters to all the boys she has loved and keeps them hidden in a box.
The trilogy follows the drama that follows after her secret love letters are mysteriously sent out to all the boys and Lara Jean’s subsequent relationship with popular lacrosse player Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). While still keeping a sense of that charm and lightheartedness from the first film, “Always and Forever” takes a more serious approach as it depicts the realities of growing up.
After two films with plots that mostly centered on love triangles, it was refreshing to see the final film delve deeper into the characters of Lara Jean and Peter as individuals. While we still see plenty of heartwarming moments in their relationship, “Always and Forever” is just as much about their own personal conflicts outside of their relationship.
Lara Jean faces uncertainty about her future when it comes to college acceptances and how her relationships with her loved ones might change after high school. She struggles to figure out what she wants for her future while also feeling pressure about how her decisions might affect the people around her.
At the same time, Peter is trying to come to terms with his absentee father (Henry Thomas), who started a new family after divorcing Peter’s mother and is now attempting to reconnect with him. We see a more vulnerable side to Peter than ever before as he is forced to confront his feelings of hurt toward his father.
While the first two films lacked focus regarding Lara Jean’s non-romantic relationships, “Always and Forever” finally delivers. She spends a lot more time with her family, as they go on a trip to Seoul over spring break and prepare for the wedding between Dr. Covey (John Corbett) and his girlfriend Trina (Sarayu Blue).
Lara Jean also grows closer with her ex-friend Geneveive (Emilija Baranac) during their school’s senior trip to New York. Although they started off as bitter rivals, we see them both mature as they put aside their past and look out for each other. Instead of mostly talking about Peter like they did in the first two films, we finally see them connecting beyond the topic of boys. The evolution of their relationship is one of the highlights of the trilogy, demonstrating the power of friendship in overcoming jealousy and insecurity toward one another.
“Always and Forever” beautifully captures the bittersweet moments of senior year—the euphoric last memories of high school and the anxiety that comes with knowing that things will inevitably change. It’s a bit different from what we’re used to seeing in the first two films, but in the best way as we send off the characters to start the next chapter of their lives.
Asian American Representation in “To All the Boys”
Beyond being another Netflix rom-com, the “To All the Boys” trilogy has made so many Asian Americans feel seen over the past few years since the release of the first film “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” in 2018. As a half-Korean and half-white teenager, Lara Jean’s relationship with her Korean identity reflects the experiences of many Asian Americans who struggle to connect to their Asian heritage.
Although Korean culture is a part of Lara Jean’s life, she also feels out of place in Seoul because she doesn’t know how to speak Korean. Her Asian identity is acknowledged and normalized in the films, but it also isn’t the only thing that defines her as a character. We also get to see her passions, aspirations, and growth as she navigates the world around her.
It’s important for Asian Americans to see themselves on screen as someone more than a one-dimensional side character who is meant to be undesirable or uncool. Lara Jean is not another stereotypical “smart Asian” or a foreign exchange student in a high school movie. She’s a hopelessly romantic protagonist who loves reading books, scrapbooking, and baking. While she can be shy at times, people are drawn to her friendly personality and her quirky fashion sense. Lara Jean is a character that young Asian American girls can resonate with or even aspire to be.
While “To All the Boys” is just one story and shouldn’t be seen as the sole voice for the whole Asian American experience, it’s a much-needed step in the right direction for Asian American representation. As sad as it is to know that the trilogy has come to an end, it’s also worth celebrating what it has meant for so many people.