Let’s spill the pop-culture tea: ‘To All the Boys’ final installment is an honest, if simple, depiction of growing up

A young adult woman bends down to fasten a lock to a lock bridge.
“To All The Boys: Always and Forever” follows Lara Jean as she navigates young adulthood, balancing dreams, relationships and career decisions. (Courtesy: Juhan Noh via Netflix)

Growing up is an uphill battle. We learn about where we’re from, what we value and who we want to be. “To All The Boys: Always and Forever” explores Lara Jean Covey’s (Lana Condor) journey of self-discovery and learning to put herself first.

Directed by Michael Fimognari, the third and final installment in theTo All the Boys” movie franchise stars Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). 

The series is established when Kitty  (Anna Cathcart), Lara Jean’s little sister, mails Lara Jean’s secret love letters — and all hell breaks loose. In a heartwarming turn of events, Lara Jean and her ultimate crush Peter date and become the picture-perfect couple, and Peter gets a full-ride lacrosse scholarship to Stanford, expecting Lara Jean to follow him there. 

Movie three brings complexity to a series that was expressly cute but nothing extraordinary. When Lara Jean opens up her email expecting her Stanford acceptance letter, she sees a big, fat rejection. Now she’s terrified.

With Lara Jean’s sights set on a future in the literary industry in bustling New York, the film’s conflict unfolds.

The way the movie makes Lara Jean choose between pleasing Peter or pursuing her own dream is effective in highlighting an issue almost every teenager faces. When you’re in high school, you desperately try to please everyone else and yourself somehow: your parents, your friend group, your teacher, your significant other. 

Then, four years later, you’re expected to be a fully fledged adult with an independent identity and a clear set of goals. Part of this “adultolescence” is learning to put your needs first, which Lara Jean does in this third installment.

I remember when I first stepped onto Claremont McKenna College’s campus, and something inside me clicked — I knew I was meant to be there. Lara Jean has this moment at a New York University rooftop party, staring out at the lights. You can see the pain in her eyes when she’s looking out at the skyline, knowing she’s going to hurt Peter by saying she has to go. 

The movie — with all its cross-country and, frankly, adult conflict — is a pleasure to watch. It folds in real convoluted dilemmas in a palatable package. The montages of Lara Jean and her friends exploring the city, the high school house parties with overdramatic outfits and the high school drama check every box for a good romp of a film; Lara Jean’s wrestling with her desires, relationships and career decisions brings this series’ final film into a less saccharin realm without being stressful.

While this movie isn’t the most serious, it effectively gets at a core dilemma young people everywhere face in the process of growing up: the tough sacrifice between yourself and your relationships, romantic or otherwise. 

Lara Jean gets her dream boy — but chooses her dream career over everything. She knows if he’s the one then he’ll stick with her through the distance, and she owes it to herself to follow her ambitions and go to New York. 

If you’re looking for a lighthearted movie, you can’t go wrong with this one. But be ready to reflect on — or confront —  your own core experiences.

Anna Tolkien CM ’24 is one of TSL’s pop culture columnists. She’s a media studies and literature dual major and loves her pugs, iced coffee and Timothée Chalamet movies.

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