Released: 4th July
Seen: 4th July
In April of 2013, Anna Todd released the first chapter of a story titled After onto the website Wattpad. Wattpad is a website known mostly for fan fiction and in Anna’s case, she was big into One Direction. This would prove to be good for Anna because One Direction was still really big at the time, indeed probably at the peak of their collective career. So this fanfiction would focus on Harry Styles, the heavily tattooed member of the well-loved boyband, and create a tale where Harry Styles was a college boy who broods and has a bit of a dark side to him who would end up falling for the sweet innocent Tessa. The book was a huge hit on Wattpad, netting half a billion reads for the 99 chapters of romance between a member of One Direction and some girl who could be you, dear reader. Now, there was a time when this would be the end of the story. The Fan Fiction would stay online, net the writer some credibility in the internet space and we’d never have to talk about it on this blog because it would be unfair to be incredibly critical towards fan fiction which is normally written by bored people with a few hours to kill and a little fantasy they want to imagine… but then After just had to go get turned into a book, change the name Harry Styles to Hardin Scott (for obvious legal reasons) and become enough of a hit that someone had to make a movie out of this book because if Fifty Shades could turn into a hit franchise, surely this one will be a major hit too.
After follows Tessa Young (Josephine Langford), an innocent mousy girl who has had the same boyfriend since she was young, texts her mom every day and would probably win ‘most likely to be the cliché unattractive girl in a 90’s romcom’ award. She goes off to college and rooms with Steph Jones (Khadijha Red Thunder), a rambunctious troublemaker who smokes pot and has sex with other women and has weird coloured hair so you know she’s a bad influence on the innocent Tessa. After much prodding, Steph gets Tessa to come along with her to a party on campus and that’s where Tessa meets Hardin (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin), a tall lean man with tattoos who bears an odd resemblance to a member of an old boy band that used to be popular. Even though Tessa is currently in a relationship with the sweet, innocent and barely in this film Noah (Dylan Arnold), she finds herself drawn into Hardin’s charms. His charms, by the way, include having a pulse and looking like fourteen other generic-looking Calvin Klein models that covered themselves in temporary tattoos for Coachella. Anyway, for literally no reason whatsoever, Tessa finds herself utterly smitten by the emotionless husk and they end up having an affair… except I think they’re trying to pass it off as true love but that would require time and effort be put into this and since this is based on a story someone wrote on their iPhone, I’m not exactly sure what you expected.
I won’t pretend that I went into this without some trepidation, I’d heard that this story was basically a watered down Fifty Shades of Grey and I was prepared for the worst… turns out, I would’ve preferred it if it was more like Fifty Shades because at least Fifty Shades had an interesting hook and was laughably bad, this is just incompetent. The problems with this movie just begin with the awful script that plays like a filler episode of a bad CW teen drama that kept cutting out during the transmission. Characters go from not even liking each other to enthuseastically dry humping each other on every nearby piece of furniture within a matter of seconds, entire storylines are just ignored because we need to spend as much time watching Tessa and Hardin make heart eyes at each other. There are genuinely moments in this film where you will wonder “Just where the hell did this reaction come from?” when you’re not wondering why people aren’t actually reacting like normal human beings. These aren’t people; they’re puppets that were made to do what needed to be done in an internet fan fiction that no one forgot to flesh out when they decided to turn this into something that technically counts as a movie.
Every actor looks like they’ve been injected with a tranquillizer before the cameras start rolling; I’ve seen corpses that have more facial expressions than these actors. No one has any chemistry or any passion, certainly none that’s visible on screen. The bad boy isn’t a bad boy, he’s a mannequin who takes his clothing off randomly and has interesting moments off camera where no one will ever see them. The good girl is a personality vacuum, almost by design because then it’s easier for the intended audience of young teenage girls to imagine themselves being the ones being chased by the brooding bad boy. That’s what this film is counting on, that its intended audience will be so smitten with the fantasy of being with a boy who looks kind of like that guy from One Direction that they’ll ignore the awful pacing, bad dialogue and the plot stolen from a much better 90s movie.
So, spoilers in case you end up caring about it but this film basically steals the entire concept behind the 1999 film She’s All That which wasn’t exactly great itself, but at least it was heartfelt and had talented actors who were able to sell the plot of “Guy gets woman to love him to win a bet”, which ends up being the surprise twist in this film and while I would feel bad about revealing that twist… it’s kind of the biggest problem with the film. We’re never even let in that there is this twist coming, we’re never told about it until we get to the end when we need the conflict to break them up for exactly four minutes before they can forgive everything over a montage. It also doesn’t help that Hardin’s the one who makes this bet, but he never does anything to actually earn Tessa. Tessa just falls for him because that’s what happens in the novel, to hell with the concept of character development or actually trying. Hell, the bet idea isn’t even from the original After story, it’s from the sequel but it’s thrown in this movie because without it there is literally no conflict whatsoever and it’s so shoehorned in that you can almost see the screenwriter realising that they have nothing to work with and desperately trying to fabricate a reason for the film to exist.
After is one of the most boring romance stories I’ve seen in a long time. It’s the homeopathic medicine of movies, existing as a derivative of a derivative of another derivative. The concept has been watered down so much that almost all of the value has gone, leaving us with tasteless room temperature water and the faint taste of arsenic. Can this movie please be the proof that fan fiction shouldn’t be turned into a film? It’s badly written, boring to look at, has all the sex appeal of a turnip and all the acting talent of a bit of slightly damp wood. Nothing about it works in any way and someone should’ve been able to say no to all of it. This should’ve stayed on Wattpad where it fits in, where you don’t need to be a good writer to get noticed and it could’ve stayed as fun escapism… instead of what it is, a derivative of a rip off of a vampire movie. That’s all this is, this is someone taking 50 Shades and watering it down which is not something anyone ever needed or asked for. While they have said that there would be a sequel, I’m going to hope that the films poor domestic box office kills that idea because no one needs any more movies with these bland boring characters.