I will say it. I am a sucker for all things light, fluffy and sweet, especially when it’s all neatly packaged in a dreamy one-and-a-half hour movie, complete with adorable moments and beautiful characters. I really enjoyed the first two movies in the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved” trilogy: the first for its glossy, low-stakes fun and the second for the ever-so-lovable John Ambrose. Not to mention, these movies are cloaked in a romantic hue of both distant fantasy and cheery reality. The characters are vibrant and distinct with little personality quirks and interests. I have always loved seeing Asian-American faces on screen, acknowledging and celebrating Lara Jean’s Korean-American heritage without making her race the too-emphasized center of the storyline and struggles.
However, when watching this final movie, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved: Always and Forever,” I found myself disappointed, disinterested and done with Peter Kavinsky. In this movie, Lara Jean experiences her senior year of high school, complete with a beautiful spring break trip to Korea, college decisions, a senior trip to New York, prom and graduation. You cannot get a more high school storyline than this.
Throughout this entire movie, I found myself reacting like a cynical, old lady, criticizing the high school whims and naive attachments of these characters. Stepping back, this movie is quite an accurate portrayal of everyone during their high school years — oh too earnest relationships, unaddressed insecurities and lacking the wisdom of actually living in the world. Nevertheless, during the movie, I was entirely upset at the naivety and neediness of Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky. Their relationship seems so clearly a “high-school” relationship, yet the movie idealizes these moments of ardent exchanges and rom-com perfection.
To make matters worse, the character of Peter Kavinsky clings to his illustrious introduction in the first movie; however, he isn’t quite living up to the perfect boyfriend trope. I have not been a fan of Peter Kavinsky since the second movie, with his jock-y allure being destroyed by the better love interest of John Ambrose with his bookish sincerity and adorable dynamic with Lara Jean. Peter’s qualities, instead, hinge on his popularity, looks and the little moments where he’s simply “the guy that always says the right thing.” These movies seem to cling too tightly to this Lara Jean + Peter relationship, always throwing together their happy ending, when, maybe, they shouldn’t have ended up together.
Being centered on the decision to choose their relationship or Lara Jean’s own hopes for the future, this movie is concerned with the crucial decision of moving and growing forward or holding tight to a present relationship. I came into this movie with hopes of seeing Lara Jean move beyond this little relationship and into the world with renewed independence and opportunities to grow up on her own. Yet, this movie wants to have its cake and eat it too, which culminates in an overall dissatisfying plot.
The “Lara Jean + Peter together forever” ideal triumphs as the credits roll, and I try to think back on how that ending was earned or justified. Overall, this movie left me wanting to change many key points, alter character arcs and bring John Ambrose back into the scenes. With glossy ideals of insecure, clingy relationships and unaccomplished stakes, this movie left me dissatisfied and unenthused. Despite its lovely backdrops and perfect landscapes, nothing could redeem the flawed relationship which grounded the movie.
Maybe you’re not as cynical as I am. Maybe I was just feeling grumpy that night. You might really enjoy this movie for its dreamy sequences and colorful sweetness. Maybe you’re Team Peter. But for me, I do not think I’ll be coming back to this movie when I need a little rom-com pick-me-up.