Netflix introduced to the world their adaptation of Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” in 2018. After releasing “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” in 2020, the media giants delivered another heart break for this past Valentine’s Day with “To All The Boys: Always and Forever.”
“To All the Boys: Always and Forever” is the final installation of Netflix’s “To All the Boys” series based on author Jenny Han’s series of the same name. High school senior, Lara Jean Song Covey, portrayed by Lana Condor, prepares to start the next chapter of her life, adulthood. Like many graduating high school students, Lara Jean is dealing with the pressure of college applications and acceptances. For Lara Jean, she plans on attending Stanford University to go to college with her boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo. Yet as the movie progresses the choices that Lara Jean makes will ultimately leave her with two options, a college life with or without Peter.
As a movie, “To All the Boys: Always and Forever” accomplishes the same as the previous two movies. It serves as a typical teenage rom-com movie with relatable characters that carry the plot. Most high school students go through the same pressure of waiting for their college acceptance letter. This film gives students a place to relate to as they go through the process themselves. There’s the typical young adult angst that happens in every movie in this series which makes it predictable like the other “To All The Boys” movies. However, the main issues with “To All The Boys: Always and Forever” is how they portray the idea of college.
One of the issues with the movie is where both Lara Jean and Peter want to go to college, changing the course of the original novel. Stanford is considered a dream school for the couple, but for many Stanford is too far for themselves to reach, boasting a 4.3% acceptance rate, yet this film uses it to further romanticize its couple, especially as Peter never showed any academic prowess in high school. Even the schools Lara Jean considers her “safety” schools, the University of California, Berkeley and UCLA, aren’t easy goals for portraying the most realistic students. The movies should’ve taken a page out of the book (literally) and went with the colleges used in them. In the novel “To All the Boys Always and Forever, Lara Jean,” Peter ends up at Duke University on a lacrosse scholarship while Lara Jean has the option of attending The College of William & Mary or the University of North Carolina. The choices in the books posed a much more realistic option for the characters as opposed to the likes of Stanford and Berkeley in the movie. Young students watching shouldn’t feel pressured into having to be accepted to the best universities in the country or be seen as a failure.
The other glaring issue that “To All the Boys I Loved: Always and Forever” presents is why the characters want to go to Stanford. Peter chooses to attend the college to pursue his lacrosse career, but Lara Jean seemingly wants to go to Stanford because Peter is going there. High school relationships are always tricky. For someone, it could be their very first relationship where they feel like they found the one just like how Lara Jean feels about Peter. However, I didn’t find this portrayal of such a relationship healthy, and took issue with the movie’s direction, which in the past has attempted to display growth between the characters’ relationships. It would have been better if both people still attemped to be happy to attend their respective colleges and worked on their relationships in college. “To All the Boys I Loved: Always and Forever” romanticizes behavior that can be toxic in a real relationship.
“To All the Boys: Always and Forever” wraps up the “To All the Boys” series. It’s your typical and predictable Valentine’s Day movie to enjoy with loved ones, friends or just by yourself. However, the film takes the idea of college and seemingly romanticizes the concept. The top colleges in the country shouldn’t be portrayed as reasonable expectations for students. “To All the Boys: Always and Forever”, while an okay film, can make the college decision experience even more stressful for high school students. It should serve as an example as to what not to do as a lovesick teenager about to make big decisions.