Netflix just released the conclusion of the “To All the Boys” Netflix original movies trilogy, which was based on the books by Jenny Han. These romance movies are well worth the watch if you are looking to boost your mood or reconnect with the struggles faced by many American adolescents.
The first book in the trilogy, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, was published in 2014. The Netflix original movie was released in 2018. The second story, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You was published in 2015, and the movie was released on Netflix in 2020. The final story, Always and Forever, Lara Jean was published in 2017 and inspired the most recent Netflix original movie To All the Boys: Always and Forever which was released in 2021. The second and third movies were both released on February 12th just one year apart, each in time for Valentine’s Day. At this time there is not a fourth movie in production, as the three-book series has concluded with the movies that were already released. However, the lead actress Lana Condor has released multiple statements that she would not rule out participating in a fourth movie if one is eventually produced.
As an avid reader, I was a huge fan of the To All the Boys books in high school, so the release of these movies brought me a great deal of nostalgia. The opportunity to watch the third movie with one of my best friends from high school amplified this, as we found ourselves pausing the movie to tell stories and relive old memories. Experiencing these stories as a college student was a very different experience from reading them in high school, because now it is a lot easier to be critical of the young characters. However, the trilogy brings a brilliant reminder of many of the struggles and decisions faced by adolescents, which I believe can help us universally refresh a greater empathy for teenagers.
The first theme I want to touch on, which is expanded upon through each of the three movies, is parental relationships. Lara Jean lost her mom at a young age, an experience that she and her sisters struggle with heavily throughout the series. Peter’s dad left his family, so he often connects with Lara Jean about the challenges of living in a single-parent home. Peter’s father, however, attempts to reconnect with him in the third movie, which brings him many emotional challenges and difficult decisions.
Another theme tackled by the stories is young relationships. Primarily through Lara Jean and Peter’s young love, but also through other characters throughout the trilogy, there are many challenges faced by teenagers through their first relationships. The characters face temptations of crushes outside their current relationship, balancing their individual priorities with those of their partners, making challenging decisions about when is the right time to have sex and much, much more.
There are many other themes touched on by the series including sibling relationships and friendships, but the final one that I want to talk about is making college decisions. This is faced by the characters in the third book/movie, as Lara Jean is not accepted into her dream school (Stanford). She then must decide between attending Berkeley to be near her boyfriend Peter and attending New York University, her own top choice. So many high school students around the country face social pressure to attend college, and even to attend a certain college. This pressure can come from romantic partners, family members, friends, teachers and more. I believe that this movie opened up an important dialogue about this struggle, as high school students see the implications of these pressures and we as adults benefit from the reminder about being true to ourselves and encouraging the younger generations to do the same.