Released: 8th September
Seen: 8th September
As much as one might try to go into a film as impartially as possible, it’s not always possible to do so. We are but humans and thus we will inevitably create biases without even thinking about it. A film’s marketing can set up expectations that a film might never meet, a film could have a dramatic history behind the scenes that leaks out into the public eye and makes you wary of what’s to come (Anyone else excited to find out what the hell is going on with that Don’t Worry Darling movie?) and sometimes you have to go see a film in a franchise that you have lovingly referred to as your nemesis so you go in fully prepared to hate it… So, my nemesis finally released the new entry, After Ever Happy and the film is just as awful as every other one but they finally added a twist that is undeniably fascinating.
When we last saw the beings we’ve decided to call main characters, Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) had just discovered that the man who raised him (and physically abused him) isn’t his biological father. Hardin discovered this by walking in on his actual biological father fucking his mother, because this franchise only understands plot points if they’re done in the same scene as some of the sex. So, After Ever Happy picks up shortly after that with Hardin being a whiny little piss baby and getting drunk at his mother’s wedding, so drunk that his ever forgiving girlfriend Tessa (Josephine Langford) has to keep an eye on him which eventually leads to Hardin trying to burn down his mother’s house. Don’t worry though, his biological father Christian (Stephen Moyer) takes the blame for it and the subject is never brought up again.
From that we go on to tell another lengthy story full of emotional abuse by Hardin against Tessa who is trying to be supportive of him, even when he runs off to get drunk and party with some old friends and seemingly cheat on Tessa which leads to another breakup… and then Tessa finds her dad dead from an overdose in the apartment she used to live in. Finding her dead dad makes Tessa go fully non-verbal until Hardin turns up and she can tell him to fuck off some more, then there’s more bullshit no one cares about until Hardin writes a book called After about his and Tessa’s life and WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS FRANCHISE EVEN DOING?!
In a wild turn of events, After Ever Happy actually does seemingly try to have something resembling a story and a point beyond just the constant sex scenes. In the entire film, there are actually only two sex scenes and they almost bookend the story arc this thing tries to have, that’s impressive restraint for this stupid series of films. This is a franchise that knew it had nothing interesting to say and do so it covers that with constant sex scenes in hopes that the attempted titillation will make up for the lack of any actual substance… well, After Ever Happy has got something to say, and the thing it’s saying is that After is an evil series and shouldn’t exist.
So the entire third act of this film is taken up with the revelation that Hardin wrote a book about his and Tessa’s relationship, a book he has titled ‘After’ because it’s about what happened after he met Tessa… and we know this because Tessa finds the book and is absolutely horrified by it. Let’s make this clear, a character from this franchise is shown on screen reading the book that started everything and being disgusted with the fact it even exists. Granted in the canon of the film it’s because Tessa doesn’t think it’s right for Hardin to be telling what is essentially her story (which he responds to with “It’s not your story, it’s OUR story” which is just the reddest of red flags) but still, this is objectively the film calling out the book it’s based on and if this were a better franchise one might think it was intentional but it’s so badly done that it feels like an accident, they ended up calling out their own flaws and didn’t know it.
If only After Ever Happy was smart enough to use the whole “Hardin wrote a book” thing to sincerely call out its own flaws, then it might be worth a damn but no. No, this film uses the meta scenario in order to have Hardin explicitly state that this book, indeed this franchise, is about overcoming a fucked up past and redemption through love… which is so fucking batshit that you have to hope it’s a joke because if anyone working on this franchise looked at what has transpired and genuinely believes there’s a redemption story in here, that’s terrifying in itself.
Oh and Hardin also pointedly screams that everything they’ve been through will be worth it if it helps one person who reads his book because he is so very fucking special that his book will help people. This book, by the way, is one that he literally claims to have accidentally written and accidentally sold to get published because it turns out that getting a publishing deal is easy and can happen accidentally if you are just as special as Hardin “Someone please set me on fire” Scott.
Beyond this, After Ever Happy is still a horribly plotted movie, throwing away a literal arson like it was nothing (Hardin tries to burn down his mother’s house… he’s celebrating with her as though nothing happened at the end of the film after BURNING DOWN HER HOUSE!) and having absolutely no character growth whatsoever. At best there’s a decent chunk of the film where Tessa finally realises that Hardin’s a useless piece of shit and leaves him but then she comes back to him eventually because no matter what Hardin does, everyone still loves him (because remember, Hardin Scott was Harry Styles in the fanfiction this is based on, that’s how he gets away with this shit).
As always, the worst element of this cinematic hemorrhoid by a country mile is Hardin “Someone please punch this fucker in the face” Scott. He is the vilest, most contemptible and abusive man to be put on film and that’s including several serial killers and rapists cos at least we’re not meant to root for those guys. After Ever Happy (just like every other film in this god-forsaken franchise) wants you to feel bad for Hardin. It wants you to hope he gets better or improves in some way so that maybe he and Tessa can work out… no, no someone needs to punch the fucker in the face as hard as possible until his nose looks like Voldemort’s.
Hardin is, objectively, a cruel and manipulative abuser, gaslighting every chance he can and making everything about him. When he is told, explicitly “If you love me, you will stay away from me for a bit” he whines and moans because he is a pathetic man child. He writes a book that includes details of his girlfriend’s father’s death and is genuinely shocked that she’s not OK with that… he is the definition of an abusive boyfriend and unless this franchise ends with his painful death, it will be rewarding him for that behaviour. Hell, he already got a reward by being able to write about his relationship and releasing it as a book. Looking forward to the next movie (cos of fucking course there’s more) where they’ll inevitably have the book optioned as a movie and Hardin will get even more rewards for his abusive disgusting behaviour.
After Ever Happy, to the shock of no one, is STILL just as bad as ever. Sure there are fewer sex scenes clogging up the runtime but that means we actually have to spend time with these characters and get to know them a little better which is absolutely the last thing that should be done when the characters are this contemptible. It’s still one of the worst written things that you can sit through, with acting that’s passable at best and just nothing of value to offer. Once again, no one grows or learns anything, there is no improving or even justifying of bad behaviours. After Ever Happy is just a bad movie, though this time they either know it’s a bad movie and are trying to laugh along with the audience or they don’t and it’s slowly turning into something campy and mockable. What’s sad is that there are some audiences who will look at this and think it’s cute, that this relationship is in any way OK… it’s not, this is pure abuse romanticised to the extreme and even with the unintentionally funny elements, it’s still a travesty that this thing was made.
…and there’s at least one more film to go, because God hates us.