Starring: Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Selma Blair
Director: Jenny Gage
Running Time: 106 mins
After is an American film about a young woman who arrives at college and falls in love with a mysterious young man, only for their relationship to turn into an emotional rollercoaster.
I get that Fifty Shades Of Grey was a worldwide phenomenon, but did we really need a boring rehash of the same story, with younger characters? For all its attempts to tell an empowering and passionate story, After is a painful watch throughout, with unlikable characters, a moody atmosphere and an unpleasant love story, only salvaged by a great soundtrack.
Briefly on that one positive, After’s soundtrack is composed largely of slower, intendedly raunchy covers of music hits from the past. If you remember anything about Fifty Shades Of Grey, you’ll recall the slow version of Beyoncé’s ‘Crazy In Love’. And if there’s any evidence that After is just a rip-off of an already terrible movie, then that’s it.
There are times when After is even worse than Fifty Shades, but for the most part, it isn’t quite that terrible. It doesn’t have the boring, drawn-out sequences about sexual contracts and bondage, but rather tries to keep the focus on the emotional parts of this love story, as well as making sure things stay moderately PG-13.
But therein lies one of the most confusing things about this movie: who is it for? Its intensity, often dark emotional depth and highly suggestive romantic scenes indicate it’s meant for a slightly older audience, yet the nature of its story suggests the exact opposite.
For adults, the best stories about young love aren’t the ones that overhype the passion, intensity and lust of an apparently ‘perfect’ romance, but rather the ones that offer a nostalgic and relatable view of the awkward and challenging realities of young love, something that After doesn’t seem much bothered about.
Instead, it focuses on a group of new college arrivals who act as if they’re in their mid-30s, as the story takes an overly serious and moody view of young love throughout. That dulls the film’s central coming-of-age themes, as you struggle to see the main characters as the age that they really are.
What’s more, the characters themselves are enormously unlikable, and the screenplay doesn’t have the development to make them in the slightest bit agreeable.
Josephine Langford plays Tessa, an initially sheltered young woman who becomes aware of the harsh real world, yet there’s very little about the character that shows the real, arduous nature of growing up. At one moment, she’s innocent, then she’s completely enchanted by her new boyfriend, then she’s entirely world-wise. And there’s no in-between.
Meanwhile, Hero Fiennes Tiffin plays Hardin, one of the most unlikable love interests I’ve ever seen on film. Simply put, he’s an idiot, and although the point of the film is to see Tessa discover that for herself, his moronic behaviour from the very start of the story makes you question why Tessa would have ever wanted anything to do with him in the first place.
Overall, After is an irritating example of what happens when you take an overly serious and moody view of young love. There is certainly space for challenging drama in the genre, but not like this, and certainly not with terrible characters, a dull story and a frustrating desire to be the same as Fifty Shades Of Grey. But at least the soundtrack is good, so that’s why I’m giving After a 5.7.