It was Halloween night and my friend decided we needed to have a movie night via a watch party. I was down and she recommended we watch the movie, After. I knew about it because I heard it was just meh but decided why not because there was nothing else we could really settle on watching. Well, I can tell you that not only did I waste 2 hours of my life watching this mess but I also questioned my sanity as to why I managed to stomach the whole film in the first place. The film, After, is based off a series of young adult books by Amanda Todd but the real origin of the story originates from a fan fiction that features Harry Styles. Yes, you heard it right, this is yet ANOTHER romance movie that somehow originated from a form of fan fiction. No, I didn’t watch the sequel and as of now, don’t plan too. Let’s dive into the dumpster fire, that is After. Also, if you want more After commentary content check out both Casey Aonso and Trinity Lovell. Their commentary on this trainwreck is both absolutely genius and hilarious.
Disclaimer: So I’m aware some fans of this movie might read this and get really ticked off. These are just my opinions. If you loved this movie for whatever reason then great, we can agree to disagree. I’m here to critique and just give my overall commentary.
The Characters Are Forgettable
One of my biggest issues with this film was easily the characters themselves. Any time you watch a movie, one of the most important things that get you invested in the story, no matter how ridiculous, are the characters. The problem in After is that the characters, almost all of them, are so forgettable. I’ve never watched a movie with less memorable characters than this film. The main character of the movie follows, Tessa, a freshmen in college who finds herself attracted to the rebel, Harden Scott. Like most generic stereotypes, Tessa is a perfectionist who is “not like other girls” who loves to read poetry and is really good at school. Basically your typical good girl protagonist. Meanwhile, Harden, is a bad boy whose entire personality revolves around this troupe that he’s a bad boy who has anger issues. Why do all these movies have an alpha male character with anger problems? It’s really overdone. We then have Tessa’s high school senior boyfriend, Noah, who legit acts more like her sibling than an actual boyfriend. No joke, both my friends thought that he was her brother. The two just gave us sibling like vibes. Either way, we have a few other characters mostly in Harden’s friend group who are so forgettable I legit forgot their names. One of them includes Tessa’s roommate whose name I also cannot remember. Obviously, depending on the role of the character, some people are easily forgotten but with the amount of time they spent on montage scenes, they could’ve used that to flesh these characters out more. They all felt one dimensional and generically underwhelming. Maybe this was due to their lack of screen time. Who knows. Either way, no one in this movie really had any character development except maybe Tessa towards the end of the film. So as you can tell, were just off to a “great” start.
The Lack Of Character Development Is A Problem
As I stated above, no one in this movie receives much character development. The movie is so oddly paced as well which doesn’t help the flow of whatever this story is. The characters don’t feel like they move really towards a certain goal. In fact, they don’t move at all and once again the only character that really has some short of change is Tessa. She gets cut off from her mother due to her relationship with Hardin, then eventually realizes how wrong she was and reconciles with both her mother and Noah. Either way, Hardin doesn’t really change much either. He becomes slightly less of a jerk but he’s still unlikeable just more tolerable than he was at the beginning of the film. The other side characters go absolutely nowhere and are only there to either add conflict or just sit there and do absolutely nothing. Basically the only main characters are Tessa and Hardin, and while I guess there might be some development, it’s too minimal to be considered significant which is a huge problem. I guess you could say Hardin seems to change somewhat but it feels lackluster and uneventful which as a result doesn’t feel earned. It also doesn’t help that he’s not very likable so your not really rooting for him to change. So yeah the character development in this movie is basically non-existent but I blame that more on the plot not being fully fleshed out. I think the sequel does this slightly better but who knows.
This Movie Feels like 70% Montage
Onto the next point which is that this movie consists of so many music montages that it low key makes up half of the film’s actual runtime. I’m kind of divided on this one because I’m fine with having montages to show the progress of the story especially to save time but this movie had one too many. In fact, it felt like the screenplay writers just were so “over” this movie that instead of writing dialogue that would flesh out the characters, they just said “nah screw it”. Instead, the montages appeared to me as just a way of showing the actual progress of the characters rather than actually showing character development on screen. This didn’t help the story at all. Montages only show the progress of a character’s journey. Dialogue is the real key to showcasing character development through their actions and growth. So yeah, too many montages and the music sounded like copyright free music that every beauty guru uses on their YouTube channel. No offense to the musicians though, the music still sounded pretty good from what I could remember so kudos to them for getting some promo. Hopefully they were paid.
Hardin Is Just The Absolute Worst.
Flipping back to the characters a bit is my main commentary on Hardin. The main love interest of Tessa who is by far one of the worst love interests I’ve ever seen in a YA adaption. I’m not even trying to be overdramatic here, but he’s just awful and unattractive in so many ways. If you know the origin behind “After”, then you’ll know that the character of Hardin was based on Harry Styles because once again After originally started out as a FanFic. Don’t blame Harry though, because I’m pretty sure he’s blocked Anna Todd (The Author) on Instagram so he clearly doesn’t care for this story at all either. Interesting. Either way, the character of Hardin just feels like a mash-up of YA male love interests like Edward Cullen and Christian Gray. He’s your generic rebel bad boy who is “saved” by the goody two shoes girl who can essentially “calm the beast”. Very similar to Noah and Elle’s relationship from The Kissing Booth where both male leads have anger issues and are constantly getting in physical altercations with other people. The only difference is that Hardin is worse and aside from that, he’s not well developed enough for us to really care about him or his relationship with Tessa. Their whole relationship has barely any build up, it feels rushed, and comes across as a toxic unhealthy relationship. For example, Tessa gradually changes as a result from her relationship with Hardin and not in a good way. She cheats on her boyfriend in the worst way possible (hooking up with Hardin while her boyfriend is in town visiting her), and just gradually becomes unlikeable throughout the entire film up until the end. Overall, this is a generic YA troupe that needs to be burned because it’s not setting a good example as to what a relationship should be. Tessa and Hardin’s relationship is unhealthy and even when Hardin tries to redeem himself, he’s not fleshed out enough for me to care about his “redemption”. He is just an unlikeable character.
The Movie Is Just Not That Entertaining
So to wrap up this article, I would say this movie doesn’t have the same “so good, it’s bad” type of appeal that some movies have to offer (Example: Cats lol). The movie’s plot feels extremely watered down and the main overall conflict just feels weak and with all the montages, it feels like the characters along with the story just are not developed. Think of this as an example, when you water down grape juice with water, the more you water it down the less of the actual juice you can taste. Well, let’s apply this example to the structure of this movie. The main “juice” of the movie is the characters and the plot. With the lazy writing and the millions of montages serving as the “water” that weights the movie down, this movie doesn’t “taste” like anything. It feels like a generic YA movie that is based on overused stereotypes, cliche character troupes, and overused conflict. The conflict of this movie, aside from an apparently emotionally unhealthy relationship, comes to light at the end of the movie in the most unoriginal way possible. It’s revealed that Hardin made a bet of some kind of if he would hook up with Tessa or not. Tessa finds out and ultimately ends the relationship which is by far the best decision she made in this movie. Not only does the twist feel like a ripoff of “She’s All That” but because the characters along with the plot are so forgettable, the execution of this reveal feels unearned and just underwhelming. Overall, I thought this movie was hot garbage and I most likely will never watch it ever again. My friends and I did somewhat enjoy poking fun at the ridiculously cheesy writing so I guess it’s the “experience” of watching this movie that counts.