We all knew this time would come – the final instalment in the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy is finally here! We got the chance to see it a bit ahead of schedule, and I wanted to take the time to really get into why this story hits so close to home.
First things first, I am not somebody who is overly affectionate. It’s in my wheelhouse somewhere, and don’t get me wrong – I love the thought of having somebody by your side that will stick with you through thick and thin. The reality is, in this day and age, that sort of love is hard to find. Is it out there? Sure. I’ve been fortunate enough to find that in my long-standing friendships. The issue with romanticizing this is that we’ve all become so accustomed to these grand gesture stories, and seeing love like that through solely the lens of a romantic partnership. That’s just not the case, and I think as our generations grow older, we’ve started adapting to that fact in order to try and really focus on GREAT love, instead of just convenient love. That being said, part of what makes this story between Lara Jean and Peter so enticing is that they seem to have really mastered both, even if it’s only “puppy love”. The added beauty in it is that it’s not just a story about falling in love with somebody, it’s also about falling in love with yourself.
This final episode in the trilogy finds our beloved Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) in their senior year of high school. As you can expect, the movie holds onto the standard idea of what this looks like for the majority of teenagers in America: University/College applications and acceptance letters, senior trips, prom-posals (I hate that word, but here we are), and an overwhelming sense of pressure to make decisions that will directly impact your entire future. I’d like to start off by mentioning that for those of you who read the book series, this final movie was a bit different. The writers did take a few liberties in adding (and removing) from the story – some without much consequence and others that I would’ve actually liked to see – but it really did a great job at still maintaining the same overall sentiment of the novel. For those of you who (like me) weren’t as impressed by the second movie, this one comes as a pleasant surprise. It surpassed the expectation I had for it.
What really draws me into this movie is how charming and innocent their love really is. Lara Jean and Peter have devised this entire plan around going to the same school and starting off on their grand adventure together into the real world. Anybody who’s gone through this stage in life already can recognize this as naivety, but the writing and feel to the movie itself does such a great job at really making you reminiscent of those times. I found myself genuinely rooting for them even though I already knew how it would end (more on that later). Despite that every odd was stacked against them, they have such a sweet and comforting feeling to them that just makes you want to see them succeed. There are moments in the story when things seem like they may take a turn for the worst, and at every corner one our beloved characters just show up and really prove what it means to love somebody. It’s never about the grand gestures, or the perfect timing, or the “meet-cute” that has more recently been coined – it’s about the little moments we go through day by day. It’s about really showing up and supporting somebody even when it maybe hurts us a little because we know deep down that it’s what is going to help the other person flourish in their own ways. In one crucial moment of the movie, Mr Covey tells LJ “you can’t save a relationship by not growing”, and that really stuck with me. We love this story because at the end of the day, these two teenagers have figured out how to celebrate each others wins and support each other through all the madness. Tons of adults I know still haven’t really figured that out, and despite the obvious teen drama that can get in the way, these two somehow have made it look so simple.
Aside from the storyline, I love the cast. They’ve stayed consistent throughout the series, so there’s not really a ton to add here other than they deliver yet again. The chemistry between all of them (particularly the sisterly bond between the Covey sisters) seems so genuine it really does emanate through their performances. We get to see them grow together and individually. Noah Centineo has the “boy-next-door” vibe down to a tee, and Lana Condor is probably impossible not to love. The thing that really gets me with this movie (aside from what I’ve already gushed about) is the visuals. Aesthetically it proves to be pretty on point with the past two films, yet this one has a bit of added flair that I wasn’t expecting. Some of the transitions were done really well and included animation (think “Take On Me” by A-ha but cleaner) and it brought something to the visuals that I didn’t realize I needed. It’s cute, it’s bright, and it really does set the tone for the storyline to pop. Everything about it was cohesive and I think it really adds to the overall vibe of the movie. Additionally, the fact that we get to see a relatively diverse cast on screen is also something that is deeply missing in a lot of Hollywood pictures. While not all of our characters have their own storylines (this IS about LJ and Peter after all), it’s nice to see different people in a larger friend group. I appreciate that it’s shown as if it’s completely normal (as it SHOULD be), and not based on a ton of stereotypes thrown in just to fit a diversity mould or quota.
Now, I’m going to go ahead and put a few thoughts on the ending of the movie so if you’re not looking for SPOILERS – you should probably skip the next paragraph.
What I really loved about the ending of the series in the book was how ambiguous it was for our main characters. LJ and Peter end up together as you would expect, but the ending essentially leaves you feeling like you don’t really know if they’ll last. It doesn’t give you a happily ever after, but a “happy for now” which is actually a much healthier approach. It doesn’t say that everything ends up perfectly, or that their lives together in the end are long and happy. It focuses on the fact that they’ve overcome a lot to be together and are comfortable in what it means to love one another. LJ recognizes there will be sacrifices, and hard times, and it may not end up with her perfect fairytale. At the end of the day, all they want is to give their love a fair chance to succeed. The movie touches on this idea a bit, but I also felt a little more like it was gunning for that “happy ending” feeling that wasn’t in the book ending. It leaves things left unsaid, but not in a way that feels as real as I took it from the original story. That being said, it was still very cute. I liked the addition of our final line about “the good thing about distance is that it’s the perfect excuse to write love letters.” They really tied in the overall story in this one, adding in a few jokes from the first two movies that were expanded on or brought full circle. Ultimately, it was a sweet ending and we got to see what was most important – the characters grew up. They learned the harsh realities of life (as much as you can by 18) and still wanted to try and make things work, and I think that’s something that can be relatable to anybody.
All in all, we know that this series was cheesy. We knew it was going to be goofy, and quirky, and a tad awkward. The things that really become endearing are what holds the trilogy together. I wasn’t watching hoping for a perfect love story, or some grand revelation about what love truly means, but because somewhere inside all of us there’s a desire to have somebody who truly understands you. That may not always be romantic, and it may not always be the “perfect love”, but a love story doesn’t have to be any of those things. Sometimes, a love story is just a story of two people and their connection with each other. It doesn’t have to be forever and it doesn’t have to be seen through rose coloured lenses – it just has to make you feel something. I think this movie does that, and I hope that if you watch it this weekend you’ll be able to enjoy the laughs and feel the highs and lows like I did. If you’re celebrating Valentine’s day, whether you’re single or taken, I hope you spend some time reaching out to those who mean the most to you. Remember, celebrating love isn’t specific to romance. We all deserve to share love with those around us and honour the relationships we cherish.