Needless to say, this article discusses the To All the Boys: Always and Forever ending and as such contains major spoilers.
The big question of To All the Boys: Always and Forever is the same one that has powered both previous films in Netflix’s smash-hit YA romance trilogy — will Lara Jean and Peter end up together?
In the first film, it was really about whether opposites could attract. Could a bookish girl fake-dating a popular jock somehow lead to a real connection? Of course, it did, and the somewhat maligned second film became about whether both could survive an attraction to other people.
Following the template laid out by Jenny Han‘s novels, this threequel wisely puts Lara Jean and Peter on solid footing so that a new problem can threaten to displace them. With graduation around the corner, the college admissions process becomes of paramount importance, and with Peter unequivocally going to Stanford to play lacrosse, it all rests on Lara Jean getting accepted there too. When she doesn’t, her well-structured but slightly unrealistic plans for their future begin to unravel.
Lara Jean has two options, basically. The first is Berkeley, which is only an hour away, and she gets accepted there. When Peter proposes that after her freshman year she transfers over to Stanford, it seems like they have their future planned out once again. But a class trip to New York throws a spanner in the works since Lara Jean immediately falls in love with the city. When she’s also accepted into NYU, she has a decision to make. Does she sacrifice what she really wants to be closer to Peter, or does she risk her romance to move to the other side of the country?
The ending of To All the Boys: Always and Forever rests on this decision, and it isn’t one that Lara Jean makes lightly. Where the film excels is in not vilifying either party and allowing both to be as understanding as possible while also having the agency to pursue their own goals. When Lara Jean confesses to Peter that she has settled on NYU, at first he’s understanding. But when Lara Jean tries to tokenistically lose her virginity to Peter, as if to prove a point of her commitment in light of that decision, that’s when things take a turn for the pair. Peter, skeptical that they can sustain their relationship over such a long distance and interpreting Lara Jean’s gesture as her saying goodbye to him, calls things off rather than having to be heartbroken three or six months down the line.
But that isn’t where things end. After Lara Jean’s dad marries their neighbor, Trina, To All the Boys: Always and Forever brings things full circle by having Noah write Lara Jean a letter (remember, in the first film, it was her own love letters getting out that kicked the plot into motion). In the letter, he explains how important it is to him that she’s able to follow her dreams, and also how much he loves her — always and forever, just like the title. The letter comes with a new relationship contract, another callback, and Lara Jean happily signs it. They’re ready to take on their respective futures together.