The film series has lost its touch
TO ALL THE BOYS: ALWAYS AND FOREVER (2021)
I’m only vaguely familiar with the To All the Boys book series these features are based upon, but I have gone through the first two films to get here. I loved the original film for its simplicity and lighthearted touch, but then the sequel released, leaving something to be desired. Now with the third installment, To All the Boys: Always and Forever officially out into the world, it’s time to see if this series can end with a solid bang, or similar to the second, leave the audience longing for the direction of the first.
Continuing soon after the events of the second, returning director Michael Fimognari helms Always and Forever and delivers a minimally satisfying love story. The film series has lost its touch with the lighthearted nature of the original, and that’s seriously unfortunate for the romance at hand. We are left with a director that is known primarily for his cinematography, something that hardly falls flat, but his bleak, inconsistent direction shows that Fimognari should go back to the drawing board when it comes to directing in the future.
Lara Jean is hoping to attend the same university as Peter so they can spend their college years together, but (SPOILER ALERT) once Lara Jean gets the bad news that she’s not been accepted, she has to find a way to tell Peter without breaking his heart. The sequel had John Ambrose as the central conflict between Peter and Lara, which was an interesting way to build tension between the two, especially with the audience because Ambrose ultimately seemed like the better person for Lara Jean. In the third entry, we are given less of a human touch with the conflict being which college the two are going to and if they are going to remain together during this transition. The college issue is an issue that I’m sure many high school sweethearts have to deal with, and for them this may come across much more genuine, but for myself, this just felt like another way to push the same story again; instead of a person coming between them, it’s a school. Three entries in, and supposedly the final of the series, and I’m tired of these characters. What once was cute is now annoying and overplayed.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Lana Condor and Noah Centineo aren’t the problem here, as they’re the same characters all the way through the series, and their attitudes don’t change much throughout; it’s the scenarios they are placed in that don’t make for overly compelling storytelling. Centineo was on a streak there for a while with Rom-Com aplenty, and hopefully he can make a McConaughey move into more serious features, because he’s become more and more of a type-cast; while Condor should have no trouble expanding beyond her role as Lara Jean. Three films in and I could care less about any of the side characters. They keep motivating the events that are about to transpire, whether it be going to prom or having a wedding, but these characters are barebones, with the funny sister Kitty becoming more of a filler annoyance this time around.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
The film abandons the school almost completely in this film with another big school trip in the center of the film. The rest of the film takes place within cafes and Lara Jean’s home. Always and Forever opens in South Korea, and without them saying so I wouldn’t have instantly known they were in a different country. The visuals weren’t overly impressive, but they’re not meant to be; it’s a small town with a relatively generic high school that somehow can afford to send their students on big overnight trips. Costume design has remained close to the same as it has been for the past few films, and as usual the outfits match flawlessly with each individual's personality.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Joe Wong has been here since the beginning, composing every All the Boys films and doing a terrific job with them. Imagine the best a young adult romance can be with a sense of wonder and anticipation, and that’s what Wong’s score brings. Known primarily for television work, it’ll be interesting to see if he starts work on similar films to bring a similar effect or if he branches out to compose something entirely different. Separate from Wong, the choice in lyrical music is excellent, with the indie song "Beginning Middle End" by Leah Nobel being front and center. When filmmakers use lesser known songs to fill their films instead of current hits, it just hits differently.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever is the end that we knew would be coming for our lovebirds, but the path to get there was unnecessarily long.