Newest ‘To All the Boys’ movie gives cheesy romance new life

Ivy Secrest

graphic illustration of a movie theater with popcorn and a soda with text reading "Collegian Movie Reviews"
(Graphic illustration by Robbie Haynes | The Collegian)

We all knew that one couple in high school that swore they would never break up, that college and distance couldn’t sway their love. They were unique; they would be the exception. Sometimes they were right; often they were sorely mistaken. However, through those very precious months of senior year, the romantic in you couldn’t help but root for them.

“To All the Boys: Always and Forever,” the third movie in the “To All the Boys” series, is exactly the sweet, optimistic, romantic comedy that 2021 needed. While the premise of true love starting in high school and extending into college with a long-distance relationship is a far-fetched and unrealistic idea, it certainly creates the type of hope that this past year has been severely lacking. The issue with optimistic rom-coms is that their focus is just that: romance. And like with many teen romances, the characters become obsessed with the romance and disregard all else. 


This series is far from realistic. … But reality is not what draws us to romantic comedy. You watch a rom-com for its idealism, for the hope it gives you, for the romance, and “To All the Boys” has accomplished that in every one of their movies.” 

Lara Jean Covey, played by the very talented Lana Condor, begins this movie set on attending Stanford University with her boyfriend Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo. It’s presented as the only option — not because she likes the school itself but because that’s where Peter is going. 

Her older sister Margot, played by Janel Parrish, warns Lara Jean to keep her options open and pick her college for the school and not a boy, she doesn’t even really consider that option until the worst happens, and she gets rejected from Stanford. 

Despite the fact she got accepted into the University of California, Berkeley, and New York University, her life is over because she won’t be in the same place as Peter next fall. It seems so trivial, but when you’re young and in love, it’s hard to imagine your life without that person, and Lara Jean exhibits exactly that. 

She wallows over her loss and comes to the conclusion that the only reasonable solution is to go to Berkeley and commute an hour to see Peter. It’s at this moment that all seems right again in the world of our beloved couple, but then disaster strikes in the form of the senior trip. 

Clearly, the realities of public school are lost on the writers of “To All the Boys: Always and Forever” because Lara Jean’s whole class gets to travel to New York for their senior trip. However, in the name of optimism, this serves as the perfect place for Lara Jean to have a revelation.

While attending a party at NYU, she uncovers a deep love for the city and realizes that this is the perfect school for her. In grappling with that reality, she is forced to come to terms with how this affects her relationship. 

Condor plays the role of a determined but heartbroken teen incredibly well. While this decision does temporarily end the relationship, Lara Jean sticks to her guns and commits to NYU.

Of course, the heartbreak can’t last for long. In a manner that very few of us will ever experience, Peter presents a grand gesture that ties the whole series together. He presents Lara Jean with a new contract — one just like the first movie, except this time it entails loving each other no matter how far apart they may be. 

This scene confirms something that most of us have found doesn’t translate to the real world: Love will prevail. Lara Jean is the greatest optimist to ever grace the screen. She believes in rom-coms and love letters and her own abilities to achieve whatever she sets her mind to. 

This series is far from realistic. Nearly none of us have our high school boyfriend’s contact information anymore, let alone their hearts. And, quite frankly, no one applies to Berkeley as a safe school — that’s a great way to get laughed out of the counselor’s office. But reality is not what draws us to romantic comedy. You watch a rom-com for its idealism, for the hope it gives you, for the romance, and “To All the Boys” has accomplished that in every one of their movies. 


We like the idea that love can prevail; it’s the reason we root for the insufferable couple senior year who are convinced they can’t break up. We want to believe that if they can find that kind of commitment, so can we. 

So, for the romantics who have been battered by the utter lack of romance in this past year, I urge you to search again for your optimism. Take a note from Lara Jean, and let yourself romanticize your life a little bit. Your plans may fall through, but hope is a lovely thing to encounter.  

Ivy Secrest can be reached at or on Twitter at @IvySecrest.