Swimming in foreplay and misogyny, After is PG-13 fodder that doesn’t even deserve your morbid curiosity.
In her feature film debut, director Jenny Gage brings young movie goers a melodramatic yet fluffy romance, blessed with nice cinematography and a diverse cast. Gage (along with screenwriters Susan McMartin and Tamara Chestna) is adapting an Anna Todd bestseller of the same name. On the Blu-ray special features, Todd explains that After initially started out as Harry Styles (of One Direction) fan fiction which ended up gaining viral popularity. In a post-Fifty Shades of Grey world, this claim to fame isn’t totally out of the ordinary. Just like Fifty Shades of Grey, I haven’t read the source material and, therefore, can’t comment on Todd’s writing. What I can comment on, however, are the film’s tasteless clichés that left my head shaking in discouragement.
After is a potentially harmful flick for impressionable movie goers who are still cultivating their sense of self respect. Gage’s film essentially tells movie goers that if someone presents themselves as an intellectual, they’re allowed to treat you however they think is suitable. This gross leverage gets the ball rolling on the romantic chemistry between good girl Tessa Young (Wish Upon’s Josephine Langford) and bad boy Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin). Tessa, who attends her first year of post-secondary education with a long-term, out-of-town boyfriend, is warned about Hardin’s rebellious ways and even witnesses his arrogance first-hand during a heated discussion of Pride & Prejudice in their literature class. But as he greets her with smouldering looks, she finds herself challenged by his angst. Hardin, meanwhile, finds himself more entranced by Tessa despite being someone who doesn’t tie himself down to a relationship.
Scenes featuring Hardin going on the offence while Tessa submissively enables are hard to watch. On the odd occasion, Tessa will stand up for herself which leads to minor growth for her love interest, but the characters revert back to their old selves when a complication in the plot arises. Likewise for supporting characters who are also aggressive towards Tessa, like her shaming boyfriend Noah (Mudbound’s Dylan Arnold) and her over-protective mother Carol (Mom and Dad’s Selma Blair). There are moments where the audience wonders if Noah and Carol are in cahoots.
The nonsense is put on hold, thankfully, when Tessa and Hardin visit an aquarium. The audience is privy to some intimate shots of the young lovers gazing at beautiful fish through gigantic glass walls. Although, and some may call me crazy, I think I saw a shark mouth “she should dump his ass”.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie