"After" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Castille Landon's "After", which is based off the widely popular Wattpad novel of the same name by Anna Todd, is made strictly for teenage girls who are suckers for these kind of relationships. This film was made for that target demographic, and in their case, I'm sure it succeeded. I personally know a few people in that audience range at the time this movie was released, and they absolutely adored it. However, when looking at it from a critical stance, this movie is incredibly flawed and is held back by its rushed story that plays it way too safe and doesn't give the cast a chance to shine.
The plot revolves around Tessa Young (Josephine Langford) and Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), two college students who couldn't be more different. Yet when they unexpectedly meet in her dorm room, and then later at a party, Tessa, the clean-cut good girl, starts to fall for Hardin, the tattooed bad boy who has a lot of problems. From there, they start a whirlwind romance, with things heating up rather quickly.
This pretty much sounds like every other teenage romance film that has come out in recent years, huh? Well, that's because it is. The story is very predictable, and all the beats are regular and safe. I can see this as being a good thing in terms of it being a fun and predictable watch. But here's where my problems lie - the book is very explicit at times. It seems like Todd was very sex-driven when it comes to the relationship between the two characters, but that is not what we get here. It is very safe and keeps it strictly geared towards the younger audiences who probably begged their poor mom to take them to see this.
At the same time, this film is trying to adapt a book of a few hundred pages into roughly an hour and a half, leaving out a good chunk of what takes place. Then, the film goes on to decide to devote roughly less than half of the film to the actual relationship audiences come to see. They leave out so much from what the book sets up, and makes the relationship seem very short lived and miniscule. That's why when the reveal comes, it doesn't hit as hard as it should have. We know they're going to get back together as a sequel was already in the works (plus the numerous sequels the book received), so the attempt to make the audience feel something doesn't work. Yet, at the same time, I'm not the right audience for this movie. I'm just reporting on what I see in this film.
Here's the thing though - the cast here is very talented. We have Langford, who is the sister of actress Katherine Langford, most famous for playing the infamous Hannah Baker in Netflix's "13 Reasons Why". She embodies her own performance here, making this unique compared to the role her sister played. However, she does have some of those shining qualities her sister has, helping her play a character that you want to root for. Fiennes Tiffin, on the other hand, who is also the nephew of Ralph Fiennes and even played young Lord Voldemort in the sixth "Harry Potter" installment, is perfect as Hardin. He completely embodies the character, and can sell the bad boy act through his expressions and the way he delivers dialogue. However, I would say that Fiennes Tiffin is the standout here, presenting a role he plays incredibly well in the constraints they gave him. You can practically see him wanting to break out of the binds they put him in.
The cast of minor characters, including Selma Blair, Dylan Arnold, Khadijha Red Thunder, Innana Sarkis, and Peter Gallagher to name a few, are decent for the most part. They are pretty much there to just further the plot along, and not really much else. I would have liked to see them get more development in their characters like what was present in the book, but I understand that the filmmakers were limited to what they had to work with in the time limit.
Even though this movie suffers from many flaws and could have been improved in a lot of ways, there's something so intriguing about this film. I'm not sure if it is due to the two leads' chemistry together or the easiness of this film, but I honestly found myself enjoying this film. I would compare it to a teenage friendly version of "Fifty Shades of Grey" - I know it's lacking a lot and suffers from a lot of issues, but there's just something there that makes me enjoy it.