Movie Review: ‘After’

After, one of the most anticipated romance films of 2019, is now out in theaters.  I had the opportunity to attend a screening that Wednesday (4/10/19) and then I went again Tuesday night (4/16/19), because once was not enough.  Now that I have had a chance to absorb everything, it’s time for my review.

“My life before him was so simple… and now there’s just… After”

Based on Anna Todd’s best-selling novel which became a publishing sensation on social storytelling platform Wattpad, After follows Tessa (Langford), a dedicated student, dutiful daughter and loyal girlfriend to her high school sweetheart, as she enters her first semester in college. Armed with grand ambitions for her future, her guarded world opens up when she meets the dark and mysterious Hardin Scott (Tiffin), a magnetic, brooding rebel who makes her question all she thought she knew about herself and what she wants out of life.

Let’s face it, adapting a book for the big screen can be an extremely daunting task but, I think that After was done in the best way possible. Albeit there have been some mixed reviews from people, and I do agree there were things I wish were done differently but I loved it.

Let’s discuss.

Josephine Langford

Josephine is Tessa hands down! If anyone disagrees, come fight me. This was her first lead role in a film (which will no doubt be a franchise) and she nailed it. Her portrayal of Tessa was incredible.

I adored the way Josephine played Tessa. Now, I know that has to do with how the script was done, but actors often give their own notes on how they feel a character should react to something. Josephine held her own during the entire film and there was such strength in the character of Tessa. In the book, Tessa often cries because of how Hardin treats her, and she spends a lot of time being self-conscious about herself. In the film, that was changed. In one scene, after a fight with Hardin, Tessa is in her dorm room putting on makeup and mulling over dressing like Steph, she ultimately decides to remove the makeup and forgo the clothes. This moment resonated with me because it showed that Tessa was not going to allow a guy to make her change who she was.

Every time Josephine was onscreen, I could not take my eyes off her.  She just lights up the screen when she laughs, and smiles plus, she’s super funny which showed in a delightful moment between Tessa and Landon (Shane Paul Mcghie) In which she mocks Hardin’s (Tiffin) accent after their infamous Pride and Prejudice fight during Literature.  Not only does Josephine make you laugh, she can also pull sadness from an audience. That was seen during the bet reveal which was so hard to watch. My heart broke for Tessa as she learned the truth about her relationship with Hardin from everyone.

Seriously, I dare you to watch that scene and not cry as she looks from person to person with the realization that she was literally betrayed by EVERYONE — even the person she thought was her friend!

Hero Fiennes-Tiffin

Hero, oh Hero… this guy is Hardin.  I mean he is just perfection! From the moment he showed up onscreen clad in his black shirt, ripped jeans, and leather jacket with that “I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks” attitude my eyes were glued to the screen.  He embodied everything about Hardin and he did a damn good job of it.

Hero’s ability to shift through all Hardin’s ever-changing moods was amazing.  Don’t believe me? Just watch the moments at his estranged father Ken’s wedding.

While I was aware that the film version of Hardin was going to be a tad softer than book Hardin, it felt at times a little too soft. I love Hero as Hardin there is no doubt about that however, I felt like they were really holding back on letting him truly go. Hardin is a brooding spontaneous guy who lets every single one of his emotions rule him, his anger being the strongest. I needed to see more of those moments of him being angry to show us just how much Tessa had started to help him work through it.

The love story

The love story is what we came for and that is what we got.  Watching Tessa and Hardin fall in love was amazing, and it gave me all the feels. There were so many beautiful moments and each one was punctuated by the incredible soundtrack which included “Look after you” by The Fray (insert crying emoji here). I especially loved the montages because they were just too cute for words, I mean the grape scene in the park, how adorable was that? And who could forget that beautiful aquarium scene?

Let’s not forget those love scenes either because holy hotness! The lake scene is one of my favorites for sure because it was so beautifully done.  That scene was done so well, and you could see that was the moment Hardin started to fall in love with Tessa. My only issue was, I felt when he touched her it was a little too quick. When Tessa said, “why’d you stop?” I said to myself, “Yes, Hardin why did you stop?” I feel like that scene is probably a little bit longer than what we got in the theatre, so I’ll keep my hopes up for an extended version when it goes to Blu-ray/DVD.

The chemistry 

I don’t care what anyone says, Josephine and Hero have chemistry. Watching the two of them onscreen was pure magic. Yes the love scenes were sexy, but I’m talking about the intimacy. The hugs, the playfulness, the long glances Hardin would give Tessa because he just couldn’t believe she was his. One scene in particular really got to me. During his father and Karen’s wedding reception, Hardin and Tessa share a dance to the tune of “Us” by James Bay, as the music reaches its crescendo, Hardin kisses Tessa. That kiss was unlike any other because I could feel how desperately he needed her to calm him down when he was feeling angry with his dad. Tessa is his light when he’s feeling lost in the dark. She’s his everything and that kiss was so passionate it gave me goosebumps. I could literally feel how much Hardin loved her in that moment.

The bet reveal

Yes, the bet reveal gets its own section because it was intense! Josephine and Hero were amazing in that scene but obviously Josephine more so because she had the hardest job. I also loved the way it was shot. The fact that the director Jenny Gage, and Anna Todd took the reveal and changed it around to use a video of Hardin making the bet was a real shock. It really was a great use of Hardin’s past behavior and I did not see that coming!

Anna Todd’s cameo

Anna legitimately had the best cameo ever. She can be seen coming out of Vance publishing as Tessa goes in.The crowd I watched the film with clapped and cheered the moment she opened the door to walk out.

The gang

I’ll keep this short but, I had to mention how well the rest of the cast did in this film.  I loved everyone in the movie but the ones that stood out for me the most were Inanna (Molly), Khadija (Steph), Shane (Landon), and Swen (Jace).  nanna was THE perfect Molly; she just delivered that snark and pull no punches attitude so well. I know I was supposed to hate her but, I loved how she played the character. For Khadija, this was her first acting job in a film, and she was a great Steph, although Steph is not my favorite, Khadija played her exactly how I pictured. Shane as Landon was so adorable, I wanted him to be my best friend when I read the books so seeing him onscreen just magnified that for me. Lastly, I did not expect to like how Swen played Jace but I did. I hate Jace in the books, but it was a little fun to watch Swen play him because he was so scummy and such an instigator. I really felt like he and Molly were like two peas in a pod.

The lack of conflict

I loved the movie, but I will say this, the lack of conflict was a bit disappointing.  Hardin and Tessa fight all the time and that is a fact. I thought the love story and montages were beautiful but, I felt that for every happy moment, there should have been a fight or two.  The biggest fight in the movie between the two of them doesn’t happen until the very end when Hardin leaves the apartment to go to Blind Bobs to meet Molly and the rest of the gang.  Now I don’t know if the PG-13 rating held them back but, I really hope to see more of the drama between the two of them in the next films. Their cycle of fighting and making up is a big part of their relationship and it needs to be explored.

Underused parents

I know you cannot fit every aspect of a book into a film. But the parents are important. It bothered me that we didn’t get introduced to them until Ken (Peter Gallagher) and Karen’s (Jennifer Beals) wedding reception. It felt a bit awkward when that moment came because that was the first time they had Tessa and Karen meet. In the book, Tessa goes to Ken and Karen’s house often to hangout with Landon. She gets to know Karen and because she is always there, that’s what makes Hardin start going to his dad’s house. Not only that but, Ken asks Tessa to convince Hardin to come to the wedding.

Speaking of Hardin’s dad, the only time we really know there is any conflict between Hardin and Ken is when Tessa goes to the house after Hardin gets drunk and destroys things after finding out about his father’s engagement.  We then see it again when he attends the wedding and tells Tessa the story of the Ken he grew up with. Hardin’s upbringing is ultimately what made him the way he is so that’s something that should have been in the movie.

The apartment

Was I the only one a little disappointed in the apartment? I felt like it was too small and it was nothing like it was described in the book. I will say this though, I feel an apartment change coming in the next film. I say this because if you noticed Hardin’s conversation with Tessa, he says he’s watching the place for a friend who is staying in Italy for a year. So technically that place isn’t  even theirs. Seems they may still be scouting locations for Tessa and Hardin’s place.

That pesky PG-13 rating

I’m just going to come out and say it. After should have been rated R. I know there is a certain demographic out there who has read the books. But the subject matter is very mature. Hardin curses A LOT, he has a dark past… the list can go on and on. I feel like the PG-13 rating made it difficult to explore certain aspects. A lot of people have said the film was “too safe.” I am inclined to agree in some ways because there were lots of things (and I don’t mean the sex) that I wanted to see and forgive me but, I wanted to hear a few swear words from Hardin (sorry, not sorry) a whispered f**k is cool but sometimes there are moments when you need to hear it. I honestly hope we go R for the next films because as I said before, Hardin’s past is dark and I don’t think that can be explored fully with only PG-13.

Despite the things that were not in the film, it was still amazing.  Honestly I didn’t think it was possible but, after seeing it a second time, I fell in love with it more. As I said before, turning a book into a film is no easy feat. You can’t please everyone but that’s to be expected. I really hope we get more movies because that cliffhanger had me needing to see how they will continue the story.  Whether you are a fan of After or not, I say keep an open mind and go see this film.

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