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By Lina Romero
Warning: Spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk!
The Netflix To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series has a special place in my heart. When the first movie in the series, based on the novels by Jenny Han, was released in 2018, I watched it with my friends and bought the book as a gift for my little sister but ended up reading it myself in one night. Now, I’ve read all three books and enjoyed the first two movies, so naturally I had high hopes for the third.
The movie begins with a montage of Lara Jean and her family on a vacation to Seoul for spring break, paired with the iconic Girl’s Generation song, “Gee." Although the trip doesn’t happen in the book, I appreciated the colorful, cinematic quality of the opening. We also get to see Lara Jean writing her boyfriend Peter a love letter from Korea before the film transitions to her coming back to school for her senior year.
The film's primary conflict is that Lara Jean doesn’t get into her dream school, which she wanted to attend with Peter. She struggles to decide whether to go to the school where she was accepted, and transfer to be with him after a year, or to go to another school that she falls in love with after she's rejected by her dream school. The schools are UVA, Chapel Hill, and William & Mary in the book (which I appreciated as a Virginia native). However, the movie changes them to Stanford, UC Berkeley, and NYU to appeal to a broader audience.
My main issue with the movie is that the plot stirs up drama for the sake of drama, and features unrealistic character choices. For example, Lara Jean and Peter break up over a fight the night of senior prom because Lara Jean wants to have sex with Peter and he thinks she’s only doing it to “say goodbye” before going off to NYU. Throughout the movie, Peter is largely unsupportive of Lara Jean’s decision to go to NYU and is portrayed as self-absorbed, yet Lara Jean still gets back together with him and decides to do long-distance when they go off to different schools.
The movie also makes Lara Jean reconcile with her ex-friend, the school's known mean girl, Genevieve. I’m hesitant to write negatively about this because I am all for female solidarity and women forming meaningful relationships with one another. However, I feel it pertinent to point out that, in the first movie, Genevieve posts a video of Lara Jean and Peter making out in a hot tub online, and it goes viral because they appear to be having sex. Instagram removes the video, but it could have easily ruined Lara Jean's reputation or even lost her future opportunities with colleges and employers. The movie needed to address this past history and, at the very least, show Genevieve apologizing in order for this friendship to work.
That being said, the scenes in which Lara Jean visits NYU with her friend Chris and the two of them go partying with Genevieve are among the most entertaining. They meet up with some NYU students and end up stealing a couch back from one of the girls' exes and riding the Subway on it in the middle of the night.
Overall, the movie departs a lot from the book and not all of it is positive. However, I still enjoyed watching it and would recommend it (with a grain of salt) to anyone who liked the first two To All the Boys films. It still has the same good acting, aesthetic, and humor that fans of the series are accustomed to; the story just isn't as strong. Although To All The Boys: Always and Forever is marketed as romance, it's important to focus on the other aspects of the story, such as Lara Jean's family and friends, because the romantic plot in this installment is weak at best.
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