Wrapping up the “To All the Boys” franchise

An honest review of the film trilogy

by Darby O'Neill , Assistant Art Director

To all the boys I’ve loved before,

These movies could’ve been okay. They were worse than okay. 

Originally published in 2014 by YA author Jenny Han, “To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before” was the first novel in a trilogy, and wildly popular at its time. In August of 2018, Netflix had obtained rights to the franchise and released a live-action film adaptation. 

Most recently, Netflix added the series’ third installment, “To All The Boys: Always And Forever” in mid-February of this year.  

To commemorate, I could think of no better way to spend my weekend than bingeing all three films- if for no other reason than solely so you don’t have to. So hunker down, as I attempt to break down how this franchise met its inevitable decline. (Spoilers ahead)

In 16-year-old Lara Jean Covey’s life, whenever she has a crush so severe she doesn’t know what to do with herself- she writes a love letter; one that never gets sent. In an effort to push her in the right direction, Lara Jean’s younger sister sends out all of the letters to the boys they’re addressed to. 

Now here we’re introduced to big-neck Peter Kavinsky, a letter recipient played by Netflix protegee Noah Centineo; who, up until now I thought people were only attracted to as a joke. 

In an attempt to stall and confuse another incoming crush, Lara Jean kisses Peter in a state of panic. Peter, who is trying to make his ex jealous, later agrees to play out the idea of a fake relationship with Lara Jean- contract and all. Slowly, the two’s artificial feelings for each other develop into real ones, and they eventually live happily ever after. Well, as “ever after” as you can be in high school, at least. 

In my opinion, the first film was relatively entertaining with a very promising premise. Totally not “Taming of the Shrew” or anything with the plot. No, definitely not. But I think the whole thing with the letters makes for a great story. I really like how Lara Jean’s character was fleshed out- the writers/producers didn’t try too hard to make her seem quirky and she often felt like a real person. 

I also want to note that this movie is yet another to fall ill to Netflix’s 30-year-olds-playing-sophomores-syndrome. It takes some getting used to; seeing King Bach at a cafeteria table certainly caught me off guard.

The second film, “To All The Boys, P.S.: I Still Love You,” released in January of last year along with that one TikTok song you’ve probably since forgotten about- “Moral of the Story” by Ashe, is where this car-ride starts to break down.

Sidenote: I do have to give props to the series’s soundtrack; a lot of interesting choices that stand out next to each other. (Even though I’m not the biggest fan of covers. Beware- the soundtrack is basically only covers.) 

In this movie, as Lara Jean and Peter test the waters of their newly established relationship, a new possible love interest is introduced. John Ambrose, LJ’s middle school crush and former Model UN partner portrayed by TV/stage actor and Dancing With The Stars winner, Jordan Fisher. After writing Lara Jean a response letter, the two coincidentally end up working at the same retirement home together, rekindling their friendship and possibly old feelings. 

Here’s where my opinions get very strong. Are we supposed to like Peter more than John? Because I sure don’t. Here comes this kind-hearted, soft-spoken gentleman who has had a crush on LJ this whole time and romantically finds his way back into her life. Versus buff, dry, Peter with his two (count ‘em, two,) emotions- who we find out was originally waiting for his ex when he and Lara Jean got together.

Call me biased, but as a member of team John 1000 percent, that moment is where these films could’ve been so greatly redeemed but failed to do so. We don’t even see any real resolution to John’s arc after he gets rejected by Lara Jean while she and Peter are broken up. The movie ends with the couple’s abrupt reunion, exactly where I believe the theoretical car pops a tire, (on its way over a cliff).

And now the highly anticipated third chapter; “To All The Boys: Always and Forever.” Lara Jean, Peter, and their friends see out the end of their high school career- navigating college, relationships, and their futures. That’s it. That’s basically the entire plot. 

What was appealing about the first movie was the fantastical thrill of the letters- and falling in love; there was some level of interest. This movie was two hours of kids figuring out where they wanted to go to college in the most mundane of ways. Nothing about it felt wondrous or worthwhile. I didn’t sign up for a couple’s therapy session- I barely signed up to watch the movie.

Between the characters taking trips to Korea and New York, the film was just 100 different ways of tying up plotlines that I didn’t care about in the first place. Every plotline EXCEPT for John Ambrose, that is. The slight possibility of seeing him again and getting some closure was honestly the only thing keeping me going. 

I understand the trilogy’s demographic, and its intended purpose as a sappy, straight, teen romance- but I really didn’t see the need to make movies beyond the first. Of course, I can’t speak on behalf of the books, but I can speak on behalf of the six hours of my life I’ll probably never get back. 

Ultimately, if I’m ranking all three movies as one unit, I’d give them 4/10 unsent love letters. Maybe a couple of extra points for reviving the blue-ish filter I haven’t seen since “Twilight.” Minus a few more for wasted postage.