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To All The Boys: Always and Forever – Cliche Overload But Cute

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Do I even have to mention that the 2021 film ‘To All The Boys: Always and Forever’, the third installment of the popular romantic teen trilogy, is overloaded with cliches and cuteness? If you’ve seen the trailer, you probably already knew what to expect. Based on the books by Jenny Han and directed by Michael Fimognari, this film is a little too picture perfect.

The movie starts of with the protagonist Lara Jean (played by the adorable Lana Condor) having a happy holiday with her family in South Korea, to explore their mother’s roots. It’s the final year of school and Lara is hoping to get into the same college (Stanford) as boyfriend Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). The wait makes her anxious, because she feels like if she doesn’t get into the same college, long-distance might kill their relationship.

Predictably, Lara doesn’t get into Stanford and is faced with the choice of either going to a college that’s just an hour away from the boyfriend, or to New York University, which is perfect for her, but would mean being over 3000 miles away from Peter. Should she choose being close to the boy of her dreams? Or going to the college of her dreams? It’s a legitimate conundrum for a 17-year-old.

One can’t pick holes in the cinematography, because like I said – it’s picture perfect. But that’s the problem, everything in the film is too color co-ordinated, for example – most of Lara’s stuff is in blue – her clothes, house walls, crockery, room posters, apron, every damn thing. You know that these are film sets, meant to look aesthetically pleasing to the eye, so they have this element of ‘fakeness’. And like a lot of Hollywood stories, New York is over-romanticised in the film. “I fell in love with New York”, Lara says twinkle eyed. I haven’t been to the city, but I’ve seen enough films to get tired of the “NEW YORK IS SO AMAZING” trope. The adulation for the city seems a little superficial in Lara’s case. You have the usual teen tropes – promposals (yes, it’s a word), truth or dare games, fancy trips, fun night outs, fancy prom dresses, selfie-sprees, etc, etc. Also, there are a lot of stale pop-culture references thrown in. It’s 2021, but Lara gushes over the 1989 film ‘Say Anything…’, a romantic flick that is often referenced in a lot of other romantic films. One would understand a 80s or even a 90s kid being mad about it, not somebody born in 2003/2004. Guess it’s because the Author Jenny Han is an 80s kid, she needs to update herself a little.

What strongly works in the favor of the film is the charming cast. I did feel like Lara’s sister Kitty (Anna Cathcart) lacked her usual sass versus the previous two movies. Lara’s friends had lesser space in the film, but were supportive positive influences in the story. Also, to the credit of the makers, the third film is not as dramatic as most teen romances tend to be. What I really liked about the film was how maturely Peter Kavinsky reacts to the challenges in his relationship with Lara, it’s hard to find 17-year-old boys who are so level-headed. So the lead stars continue to be ‘couple goals’, as teens today call it.

The climax was predictable but cute. Overall, I did enjoy this film more than I had expected, because the trailer didn’t look particularly impressive. It’s a good pick for a light, sweet, simple romantic pick for the weekend. It’s a 7/10 from me.

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