‘AFTER’ is a teen college romance based on the first book of a series of best selling novels by Anna Todd. It’s the love story of Tessa Young (Josephine Langford), a well behaved freshman who lives a sheltered life and wants to please her mom (Selma Blair). She actually has a boyfriend Noah (Dylan Arnold), who looks so unappetizing she treats him more like a brother as he’s actually still in high school and you’re not gonna be surprised at all when she’d eventually dump him.
Things change when she meets Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a brooding young man who’s her exact opposite. But naturally, she’s irritated with him at the start, but you’ll know this is just the start of her fascination with him. Hardin seems to be an embodiment of mysterious enigmatic heroes in English literature that both he and Tessa are fond of, notably Heathcliff from “Wuthering Heights”. When they first meet, they argue about “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen and you know it should remind us of the famous couple in that well known novel. Of course, it’s only to be expected that Tessa finds the air of uncertainty in Hardin simply irresistible.
As Hardin, Hero Fiennes Tiffin (he’s the nephew of his more famous uncles Ralph and Joseph Fiennes) is conventionally good looking but doesn’t really come off as a swoon worthy leading man with a bad boy attitude. You know he’s really a softie deep inside, just nursing a wounded soul despite his declarations that love does not really exist and his sporadic outbursts of violence.
Josephine Langford is more effective in bringing out the vulnerability of her character and gives an honest performance as a naive young woman hungry for new experiences that you know will just hurt her.
Honestly, we don’t get to invest much in their romance and we couldn’t care less what happens to Tessa because she just got what she asked for. And many of the situations portrayed are really cliches, including kids with daddy issues, controlling single parents, mean girls, a supportive friend who’s black, tattoos, body piercing, etc. etc.
The movies starts with Tessa’s voice over narration about how certain moments in life seem to define a person and this is her account of what happens to her AFTER her involvement with a problematic young man. Eventually, the chaste Tessa makes “suko her Bataan” to Hardin who she knows is skeptical about love. The sexy bits in this young adult romance are actually just more implied than explicit, since this is not “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Directed by Jenny Gage, “After” wants to be an intimate look at the vagaries of first love but it takes some silly turns that it just fails to become a captivating romance or even a fetching coming-of-age tale for Tessa. If this movie were successful, we’re sure they’d also produce its sequels. But since it’s a big flop, unlike “Five Feet Apart”, then that’s the end of Tessa and Hardin and they deserve it.