The Movie Guru: The highs and lows of Netflix’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” movie series
It’s rare for a romance to get an entire trilogy.
One romance, however, has managed to do just that. Netflix’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” spends three movies telling the love story of Lara Jean and Peter as they move through their last years of high school. And, as with any trilogy, there are definite high points and low points to both each movie and the series as a whole. If you’re just diving in for the first time, here’s a guide to the best and worst of “Boys.”
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”
The first movie in the series is an absolute charmer, and still the best if you’re looking for a straightforward YA romance experience. It starts out with Lara Jean, a girl who’s always been more comfortable experiencing the romance in stories than actually interacting with boys in real life. She’s got a collection of love letters she’s never planning to send to boys she’s had crushes on, and when they accidentally get sent to those aforementioned boys things start to get complicated. Lana Condor has a wonderful screen presence as Lara Jean, and Noah Centino makes Peter into a charmer who seems like more than the lacrosse bro he seems to be at first. I don’t want to spoil all the nuances of the plot, but I will say the movie is possibly the best use of the fake dating trope I’ve ever seen onscreen.
Grade: Three and a half stars (out of four)
“To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You”
Inarguably the weak point in the series, at least as far as romance is concerned. Since the main duo got together in the first movie, this is the bit where romantic complications swoop in to try and mess up their happy couple-dom. While this is hardly the first or last movie to pull that particular trick, “P.S.” makes the fundamental mistake of letting the other man be far too adorable. Jordan Fisher’s John Ambrose is absolutely adorable, and there’s a decent chance you’ll end the movie wondering why Lara Jean didn’t just end up with him. If you’re still a fan of Centino’s Peter, you’ll probably feel like he gets sidelined until the last few minutes of the movie. There are some good character moments for Lara Jean, but on the romantic front the movie mostly leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Grade: Two stars (out of four)
“To All the Boys: Always and Forever”
Though it lacks the smooth, easy tropes of the first movie, “Always and Forever” has an unexpectedly mature sweetness that makes it worth watching. Here the complications to Lara Jean and Peter’s love don’t come from another man, but the messy business of growing up. Looming college decisions and other personal milestones force the two to take a more intense look at their lives, and though the process isn’t free of trouble you can see the bond between the two of them. There’s also plenty of opportunity for individual growth, which dovetails neatly with some romantic moments that are still swoon-worthy. Though the plot isn’t quite as tightly focused as it could have been, this is still a worthy close to the series.
Grade: Three stars (out of four)
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.