To All the Boys: Always and Forever (3 stars)

To All the Boys: Always and Forever

Likeable closer for the popular Netflix rom-com film series, based on Jenny Han's novels

'We don't have a song, we don't have an anniversary and we can't remember how we met. We are a terrible rom-com couple,' 17-year-old Lara Jean (Lana Condor) despairs to boyfriend Peter (Noah Centineo) in the final instalment of the popular Netflix film series. This fusion of self-awareness and rule-breaking, combined with a shameless romantic streak, has been what makes the To All the Boys films so winning, that and the sparkling work of leading lady Condor.

The trilogy comes to a close with this adaptation of Jenny Han's third novel which pitches Lara Jean and Peter's apparently perfect relationship, which has admittedly already been through a few trials, against its female protagonist's personal ambition. When their plan to head to Stanford University – Peter on a lacrosse scholarship, Lara Jean to study English Lit – goes awry when she doesn't get in, the nearby Berkeley seems like a decent substitute. However, a trip to New York throws it all up in the air. Meanwhile, Lara Jean's dad (John Corbett) is about to get married, her sisters Kitty (Anna Cathcart) and Margot (Janel Parrish) are being typically exasperating, and prom is on the horizon.

If Always and Forever is predominantly sweet and sunny, Peter's abandonment issues relating to his dad (Henry Thomas) add believable complexity to the couple's predicament, though there's not much else in the way of meaty drama. However, changing things up for boy-mad Lara Jean works well – this time she falls for a city rather than a guy. Devotees need not be alarmed, the series is clearly not going to eschew its romantic ideals in its final throes.

There's plenty of energy in director/cinematographer Michael Fimognari's execution (he helmed the previous instalment and was DoP on the first film), with some edgy pop (Suzie Wu, we're looking at you) bringing a smattering of welcome attitude, and Kitty doing the same ('Are you planning a wedding or a Mumford & Son's concert?' she comments witheringly to her soon-to-be stepmom). However, it's not trying to be Booksmart, so doesn't go all out on the teen swagger; like it or not, the love story is what this will always come down to. Luckily, the couple in question are as cute as buttons, and fans will no doubt swoon.

Available to watch on Netflix from Fri 12 Feb.

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