Is there a more resounding reminder that you, with your Cult.fit membership, are old, than the lead character of the movie you’re watching going, ‘huh?’ upon hearing the word ‘Oasis’?
That’s what happens in To All the Boys: Always and Forever, when Lara Jean Covey’s boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky, suggests that she check out (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? That’s an album, by the way, to all the children out there who decided to read a movie review and not simply watch someone post their reaction on Reels. It’s by Oasis, who were a band. A band, to all you Doja Cat fans, is a group that gets together to make music.
Watch the To All the Boys: Always and Forever trailer here
One of the biggest dramatic arcs in the film, the third and final instalment in Netflix’s hit romantic comedy series, involves Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo), discovering a song that defines them, as a couple. This happens because Lara Jean, torn as she always has been between being a hopeless romantic and a stern pragmatist, declares one day that they are a terrible rom-com pair.
They can’t remember when they met each other, they never had a ‘meet-cute’, and much to Lara Jean’s dissatisfaction, they don’t have ‘a song’.
Three years have passed since To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, almost single-handedly, revived a dying genre. In those three years, Centineo has grown swole, Condor has visited Mumbai, and Lara Jean and Peter, as a couple, have survived a subpar sequel. Always and Forever, heartbreakingly, is the weakest of the trilogy.
And that’s largely because, unlike the first and second chapters, the dramatic stakes in this film feel oddly non-existent. The prime source of conflict is, of course, Lara Jean not getting accepted into the same school as Peter. The couple had already started daydreaming about their lives together, as students at the same university, then perhaps as lovers in the same house, and then, eventually, as spouses with kids. But dreams, as kids in high school movies often learn, tend to break. Ironically for a film titled Always and Forever, it’s willing to engage with the idea that young love is fleeting.
But because of a strange coincidence, Lara Jean isn’t immediately able to tell Peter that they won’t be going to Stanford together after all; that her application was rejected. Always and Forever milks this miscommunication for a solid 20 minutes, which, IMHO, is 19 minutes too long. Once they’re both on the same page again (19 unnecessary minutes later), Lara Jean tells Peter that she has, instead, decided to go to New York University.
This is a bold about-face, considering that mere days ago, she was imagining a life of blissful cohabitation with Peter. And now, she’s planning on moving 3000 miles away from him, fully aware that their relationship might not survive. “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a high school romance never lasts long distance in college,” Peter tells her, once again slamming his pop-culture credentials on the table.
Lara Jean is no stranger to making irrational decisions, three films have shown us. This is the same person who, if you remember, spent an entire movie going back and forth about the idea of loving her Noah Centineo-shaped boyfriend. But in Always and Forever, it takes only a quick trip to New York for her to realise that she’s in love with the city.
But this is a To All the Boys movie, after all — an overly sanitised depiction of the teenage experience. It’s almost unbelievable, but both Lara Jean and Rue Bennett (Zendaya’s suicidal drug-addict character from HBO’s Euphoria), are the same age.
Things rarely work out for characters in Euphoria, but director-cinematographer Mike Fimognari (who also directed the second instalment), must function within prescribed parameters on the To All the Boys films. The farthest he’s willing to push the envelope here is introducing Peter’s estranged father and exploring that dynamic for a hot minute. The Spectacular Now did it better.
For a franchise that began so refreshingly, a franchise that I have particularly fond memories of (and always and forever will), it’s disappointing to see it end on such a ho-hum note.