The first installment of the trilogy, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a stunning testament to vulnerability and reminding viewers of the fact that we can continue going in this direction where telling stories about desires can and will always matter. The second, in all honesty, film wise was forgetful, but the third, Always and Forever, Lara Jean picks up beautifully in order to conclude the trilogy with the kind of reminder that is going to leave a lasting impression on viewers.
There is a lot to unpack and there is a lot to appreciate but most importantly, Always and Forever is the story of girls following in their dreams and believing. I’m not so much of a cynic that I firmly believe high school romances don’t always last in college, but sometimes, you understand why they don’t. (More often than not really.) But that’s not the case with Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky and isn’t that why we all love them so much? Because we know they are going to work out with 100% certainty because the belief and love within both of them is strong enough. It makes the film wholesome, it really does, and that’s partly why it’s so enjoyable. If I wanted gut wrenching angst and poetic storytelling, I’d rewatch Normal People, which is just as enjoyable. But we go into these films wanting and hoping not only that the love stories could last, but that both characters could fly, too.
Always and Forever got a lot of things right (yay for happy endings!), but my favorite part of it was the time in New York with Gen and Chris. Girls getting along is everything, and at its core, as much as the books/films were love stories, they were also stories of female friendships.
The scene with them stealing the couch, getting it onto the subway then laughing together brought so much joy onto our screens. And more than that, it’s the detail that this doesn’t have to be a one time thing. Gen and Lara Jean don’t have to be catty and fight over boys anymore—they can be friends again. They can be there for each other, they can laugh together, and they can grow together. As different as Chris and Gen are, they can “hate” each other on a different level now. They can get together and they can want the best for each other. Gen didn’t try to convince Lara Jean not to go to NYU, but instead she encouraged her. And it’s the certainty of the growth both women have experienced that we know without a shadow of a doubt that today, they are going to be okay. Today, this friendship is going to be a lifelong thing. Today, they can grow together.
It’s the relationship between the Covey sisters that can be both vigorous (as siblings can be) and wholesome at the same time. It’s Margo coming back home to a place that is different now—a place with a new family member but having a future stepmom like Trina isn’t something we see often in media. A woman who actually cares about these girls as much as she cares about the man she is marrying. A woman who cares to do right by them. These healthy portrayals of female relationships have always stood out just as much, if not more than the love story, and it’s the main reason we’re bummed this is the end.
And to contrast the scene in the first film with Kitty being the one to send out the letters and Kitty withholding information because she would miss Lara Jean too much if she went far away to college resorted me into blubbering mess. Especially because when she finally confessed why she did it, Lara Jean’s immediate reaction was to hug her. It’s tough enough with Margo gone, but now Lara Jean, too? Be still my heart. I felt so much of Kitty’s struggle in that moment even though I don’t have sisters and that’s a testament to how stunning this bond between the sisters has always been.
Women don’t have to sacrifice their dreams at the expense of men anymore, and younger girls especially don’t have to do it. As much a lot of us thirty-year-olds are watching these films, younger generations are too and it makes me so happy that they could have a hero like Lara Jean who could encourage them to follow their dreams even if it takes them far away from their significant others. We can’t grow unless we do the things our hearts want us too. And Lara Jean’s heart, as a writer, belongs in New York. You know when you know, and that beautiful moment where she realized it is one that could stay with viewers for a long, long time. Kudos to Lana Condor for an incredibly nuanced performance all throughout the film as she brought to life so many of Lara Jean’s emotions with very few words.
Always and Forever is a gorgeous testament to females because it’s the acute reminder of the fact that when love is meant to be, it can and will withstand the distance. Margo and Josh didn’t work out because they weren’t to, but Lara Jean and Peter aren’t that couple. They can withstand it all, they will, and that final moment at the wedding (with Kitty’s help) was aces. The fact that he embraced the song that she loved and felt was theirs even while he wasn’t there showcased his growth, too. His decisions to embrace her dreams and to fight for them just as hard as she would have for him is the very reason we all adore him.
That’s why this film works so well as a conclusion and why the book is probably best—it’s a healthy showcase of young love that tells viewers of the fact that where people are given the room to be themselves, where they are believed in and trusted in, no matter where they are, they can prosper. Girls can do great things when they have heroes who remind them that they can have love and follow their dreams. They don’t have to pick one or the other, ever and that is the beauty of this trilogy. Lara Jean Covey deserves both and she gets both.
And in watching the film, that’s what we hope people take away from it. Art is subjective, but some lessons are too lovely to disregard. You don’t ever have to choose between things you love because the right people will never try to stir you into making decisions that take away from your heart’s truest desires.
Now streaming on Netflix: Have you watched Always and Forever, Lara Jean? What are your thoughts on the film? Let us know in comments below.