Aida Vucic | 27/06/2019
Maybe a little less foreplay and a bit more play would have benefited this “new adult fiction” film.
Based on Anna Todd’s novel of the same title, After follows the story of Tessa Young (Josephine Langford); the sweet and wholesome variety girl, who’s eager to start her first year at college. After saying goodbye to her overbearing mother and equally wholesome boyfriend, Tessa is left to ruminate on her newfound independence. She’s been paired with Steph (Khadijha Red Thunder) as a roommate. While the pair are stark contrasts, they manage to establish somewhat of a bond and Tessa is quickly introduced to the gang; a group of misfits who are equally as rebellious as Steph. It’s during a very short game of truth or dare that Tessa is introduced to Hardin (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin); a tattooed, leather jacket wearing bad boy. But this bad boy is different from all the rest because he likes books. Thus ensues a bizarre romance that seems to have manifested from thin air.
The romance between the pair is intense to say the least, with the lead duo exchanging salacious looks at one another at every opportunity. It feels immensely strange given that our protagonist is a virgin and self-professed good girl. But the pair take their relationship further during a scene so poorly scripted that you’ll find yourself cringing so much you’ll miss the entire pre-sex scene.
Hardin, as we later learn, is “complicated”. That means he’s got some serious daddy issues, which inevitably create some friction for the pair. Hardin also has a secret; one that is divulged to muted, disappointing dramatic effect late in the piece as an impetus to separate the pair, however briefly.
Admittedly Hardin’s character has been modelled off Harry Styles, so the lack of any depth to the character is not indicative of Fiennes-Tiffin’s ability as an actor. The script didn’t provide any scope for him to venture further than playing the stiff reincarnation of a boy band member. Langford, who we were surprised to find out was Australian and the sister of Katherine Langford (known for her role as Hannah Baker in 13 Reasons Why), clearly was bestowed with the same good looks as her sister but much like her in-film love interest wasn’t provided the opportunity to showcase any real acting ability.
The keen eyed viewer will thoroughly enjoy, however, the casting of Selma Blair. Diagnosed with MS, Blair is defying her diagnosis and proving that she’s still got it.
It may have sounded like an ambitious task for the director to translate a 600 page book to film. After, however, barely manages to stretch such a weighty tome into a feature length film. Cut out the montages, steamy gazes and ‘memory’ style repeats of scenes we saw not 30 minutes, and you’d be lucky to hit a 45 minutes run time. After feels unnecessarily bloated and shockingly, unendingly vapid all at the same time.
That being said, After does have a redeeming quality in its sheer terribleness. It is one of those movies that is so bad it is a joy to watch, drunkenly or no, cackling along to the horrid script, poor cinematography and bland acting. If you’re looking for something to cruelly laugh at, then perhaps this turgid romance is worth a look.
All tease and no payoff.