The loveless love of After

[This review was previously published in Italian here.]

In conjunction with the release of the trailer for the third film in the After saga, Lady R agreed to share on our blog her review of the first film, previously published on online journal TabletRoma two years ago. This is my English translation of it.


“She meets him, at first they hate each other, but then love is born”: the plot of “After” is obvious since the trailer, and, once you’ve seen it, you can safely say you’ve seen the whole movie.
Based on the fanfiction (a story inspired by another pre-existing work or character) with the same title, written by Anna Todd and published in bookstores in 2015, the film contains within itself the ABC of romantic comedy, but nothing more.

One would say that, at least, young girls may like it: however, looking back, not even they could derive any joy from such a movie. Not because it is not of interest – the mere name of Harry Styles, member of the One Direction and inspiration of the original fanfiction, will be enough to attract a rich crowd of spectators – but because, as it is made, it offers nothing fascinating except the (vague) connection with the inspirational novel.

Director Jenny Gage, on her third project – but first in theaters -, has written a lean and functional script: what she forgot to do, or tried to do without success, is to give it features that make it noteworthy .
What the critics of the book “After” bring to light is the unbalanced and toxic relationship between the female protagonist, the shy and obedient Teresa “Tessa” Young, and the “bad boy” Hardin Scott. In the movie, this relationship is hinted at, and we see flashes of it in a scene or two, but otherwise it seems that the female protagonist and the boy get engaged only because the script says so, since most of the moments of dialogue, which in another film would have constituted a point of growth or development of the characters, are replaced with long scenes of musical editing or exchanges of glances and sighs in which no one says anything.

Tessa wears modest clothes, doesn’t like wearing makeup and prefers reading to parties. In more competent hands, the character could have reassured many young introvert girls: what we get, on the other hand, are characteristics that seem stuck to the protagonist only to make her, in what should be the author’s point of view, more forcedly sympathetic.
In addition, the flaws present in the original Tessa, including the slut-shaming, are not even told, leaving the protagonist completely empty. Hardin dons a leather jacket, listens to the Ramones and once beats up a guy who teases his girl at a party: much more content than it could have been, but, despite Hero Fiennes-Tiffin’s undeniable commitment, it remains a tasteless love interest.

From the point of view of the plot, “After” looks like a series of short skits, interspersed with montages and identical intimate scenes between the main couple. A monotonous structure, which leads to boredom in a few minutes, aggravated by the complete lack of charm not only of the protagonists, but of the entire cast.
Model Khadija Red Thunder and singer Pia Mia, for example, play party-goer Steph and his girlfriend Tristan in very short cameos. But, if the presence of LGBT + characters could have enriched the film and perhaps made it important to some young audience, their time together on the screen is under five minutes, and their interactions are limited to mutual kisses and compliments.

We are not shown shared goals, difficulties overcome together, mutual passions: nothing that makes a cinematic couple fascinating. To be fair, this problem is also shared by the leading couple, not relieved by the fact that lead actress Josephine Langford is amorphous and devoid of mordant. Nothing strange, considering that her character is completely deprived of any distinctive features.

The other characters range from the useless – Zed, whose presence is completely irrelevant to the plot – to the caricature, as the intrusive mom of Tessa, and Molly, the “mean girl” of the situation, completely devoid of psychological depth and not enough memorable to enter pop culture, as Regina George once did.

More likeable is Langdon, Hardin’s kind half-brother, but his presence only makes the viewer wonder why Tessa doesn’t date him. Not because it is more congenial to her in terms of tastes, but simply because there are constructive dialogues and moments of mutual help between him and the protagonist. Something that with Hardin never happens.

More of a screenplay than a finished film, “After” achieves no results other than to bring the spector to yawn, and to show to all potential content creators that it’s not enough to move characters like plastic toy soldiers, making them do what they want, in order to create an engaging story.
There are bad films that, in their own small way, get a devoted and small following that appreciates some of their salient features. There are bad films that can arouse fun in certain viewers, exactly because they are grotesque and improbable.

“After” is the worst kind of bad film: an amorphous, colorless movie that goes through each mandatory stage with no joy or personality. One knows what’s going to happen before watching it, and it doesn’t offer anything interesting in any other way. Not an offensive film, as many feared, but not even a memorable one.

-Lady R


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