Let’s Get Reel: After

By Lauren Toneatto ’21, Social Media Editor

Never in a million years did I anticipate giving the movie After a positive review. Based on a One Direction fanfiction by Anna Todd that was turned into a novel in 2014, my expectations were set exponentially low. I anticipated regretting every cent I spent on my $7 movie ticket. Nevertheless, my roommate and I bonded over and reminisced about our fandom years during a 4:10 p.m. showing on Saturday. If nothing else, we agreed to get Chipotle afterwards to make the excursion worthwhile. To my absolute surprise, After was fast paced, not nearly as cringey as anticipated and overall a quality film. 

No longer revolving around Harry Styles, Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin) keeps the heartthrob’s initials but adds a bad-boy edge. Tattooed and mysterious Hardin juxtaposes clean-cut, preppy Tessa Young (Josephine Langford, perhaps you know her sister from 13 Reasons Why), the film’s protagonist who is beginning her first semester of college. 

Immediately, the film begins with an angsty shot of Tessa walking through the woods with her back to the camera. She has an inner-monologue about how her life is split into the time before and after she met Hardin. At this point if you’re imagining Twilight you wouldn’t be alone. The vampire-werewolf film phenomenon was the level of cringe I anticipated walking into this film. Had the remainder of the movie continued in the same way as the tween classic, I would have had a completely different opinion. 

Admittedly, After isn’t without its cringe moments (at one point Tessa declares nothing can make her stop loving Hardin – of course this statement is contradicted ten minutes later), but this is a teen romance after all. I swear the film instantaneously improved upon this opening scene’s conclusion.   

I was struck by the film’s fast pace. The first time I checked my watch, it was already an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie! The character’s are much more well-rounded than I imagined they would be, a factor I believe impacted the film’s pace. Langford shined as Tessa. She had a backbone despite her goody-two-shoes demeanor and obviously worked hard to receive her acceptance into university. That’s not to say she didn’t make some thoughtless choices, but I was invested and curious to see how her character arch ended. 

Given the fanfiction’s original abusive and sex-heavy content, the film was progressive in ways beyond omitting these features. At 21 years old, both stars Langford and Fiennes-Tiffin are of accurate college age. By now I’ve succumbed to thirty-year-old actors playing high schoolers, so it was refreshing to see actors who could accurately play the part. This factor added to Tessa’s initial naivety, making the film much more believable (but also frustrating to watch when Tessa made a reckless decision). 

As well, during a climactic scene, a condom is prominently on display and Hardin takes a moment to confirm Tessa’s consent. Say what you will about the rest of After’s narrative and plot, but it is undeniably rare for films to portray safe sex on screen. Thus, I will give recognition to their efforts when it is due. As well, I constantly admired Tessa’s outfits, wishing I could have access to her pastel ridden closet. I appreciated that she re-wore her clothing on multiple occasions, showing the realities of college life instead of having a brand new, lavish outfit change for every scene. My roommate offered a rebuttal to my respectful comment saying this coincidence was due to the film’s small budget, but I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re making progressive strives. 

Did I enjoy my movie-going experience? Yes. Did After exceed my expectations? Absolutely. Does the film deserve an Academy Award? Never. That’s not to say that I agree with their 13% Rotten Tomatoes score, the film was much better than this, more like a 57%. While progressive in several aspects, After is no revolutionary film. 

It is still evidently a teen drama, filled with questionable one-liners and an abundance of love related clichés. For what it was, or what I anticipated this movie to be, After deserves some recognition for making a memory for me to share with my roommate. If you’re contemplating what to do on a rainy day, seeing After certainly wouldn’t be the worst option.