I decided to be sappy on Valentine’s Day and watched the final installment in the Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky love trilogy: To All the Boys: Always and Forever.
**Spoilers for To All the Boys: Always and Forever.**
Lara Jean and Peter have a plan: go to Stanford together so Peter can play football, Lara can study English, and their high school romance can continue into college. But when Lara doesn’t get into Stanford, it puts a wrench in their couple plans that lead to Lara realizing there is more for her to explore out there.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a massive hit directed by Susan Johnson, which unfortunately followed the Twilight rule and replaced its female director with men for the sequels. It was a breath of fresh air to the romcom genre, especially because it had an Asian-American female lead, Lana Condor’s Lara Jean, as the focus.
We watched the meet cute and fake dating adventure between her and Peter (Noah Centineo), which sparked into a real love story.
I’ve always enjoyed the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter. It has this really soft, sweet energy that is very endearing. Peter isn’t the perfect boyfriend, but Lara Jean isn’t perfect, either. In fact, in most ways, she is probably a bigger mess than him when it comes to relationships because she has spent so much time being an idealistic romantic.
(Which is extra curious considering she doesn’t think their song can be found on a ’90s album, but wants to make her boyfriend watch Say Anything and romcoms from the ’80s and ’90s.)
While To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You was, in many ways, a stereotypical romantic sequel complete with a curveball love interest, I found this final installment to be a lot more engaging—particularly because it has Lara Jean falling in love with her own dreams.
After not getting into Stanford, she is accepted into Berkley and NYU. During a senior trip to New York, Lara Jean ends up loving the NYU campus (which is all of West 4th, for better and certainly for worse). That is 3,000 miles away from her boyfriend, but Lara Jean goes for it. I was proud of her in that moment, and so was Lana Condor.
In an interview with the New York Times, the actress recounted wanting to make sure we saw this new stage in the character’s life.
“I was constantly talking to the director and the producers and writers and everyone like, ‘You guys, we need to show her stepping into the world as a young woman choosing herself for the first time,'” Condor said.
It was beautiful to see because the reality is that you should go to college wherever you find yourself being happy with (although, I hope you are ready for that out-of-state tuition, sis). I was glad she didn’t choose Peter over her own joy.
But I’m also glad Peter was allowed to be disappointed and hurt, and then come around.
When we talk about toxic masculinity, I think it is important to clarify that young men being sad and feeling hurt is normal. Feeling as if the person you love is not choosing you is hurtful, and while it may, in the moment, be a pure emotional response, it is a human feeling. Peter has his own abandonment issues, and Lara Jean shouldn’t make decisions to protect him, because conflict happens, but he has to work through them on his own.
And he does. He apologizes and nourishes the foundation that they have together.
That is a good thing. Relationships are not perfect, they are filled with struggles, especially when distance happens. What matters is working to change and do better.
Peter’s sadness in that moment, which turns into a childish acting out, doesn’t define him more than the empathy he shows when Lara lies to him.
So in the end, I’m rooting for these two kids, and so is Condor.
“But I know for a fact that they’re going to get married; they’re going to live happily ever after,” she said. “I just think they might need to grow as individuals first. And then I’d love to see them meeting each other again — she’s like at a cafe writing an article for a newspaper she’s working for, and he happens to be there, and they meet again in a new way where they’re older and developed. That would be so cool. If it happens, you heard it here first.”
And you know what? I believe it.
I’m looking forward to the spinoff, To All the College Debt I Now Owe in an Unstable Job Market.
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