Film Review: After

Now available on UK Netflix, this smash hit young romance will get the butterflies fluttering in your tummy.

A young woman falls for a guy with a dark secret and the two embark on a rocky relationship. Based on the novel by Anna Todd.

*Warning: This review contains spoilers*

After is a 2019 romantic drama film starring Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin, directed by Jenny Gage with a screenplay by Gage, Susan McMartin, and Tamara Chestna and is based on the 2014 new adult fiction novel of the same name written by Anna Todd.

The film was released in the United States on April 12, 2019, by Aviron Pictures. The film grossed $69.5 million worldwide against a $14 million budget.

After” opens with some narration about how certain moments in life seem to define a person, and from there, the clichés pretty much don’t stop. If there’s a defining moment in the life of Tessa Young, it’s either meeting, initially being annoyed by, falling in love with, being heart-broken by, or reuniting with Hardin Scott.

It has that 50 Shades of Grey tone to it. Whether it’s the immense soundtrack or the brooding, dark, mysterious love interest -Hardin Scott- of our virginal protagonist -Tessa Young-, something about this production screams sensuality.

When Tessa Young, the heroine of “After,” arrives for her freshman year at Washington State University, we can tell in a skipped heartbeat that next to her surroundings, she’s as sweet and dewy and wholesome a goody-two-shoes as the title character of Tom Wolfe’s college-and-Gomorrah novel “I Am Charlotte Simmons.”

Tessa’s roommate, played by the model with attitude Khadijha Red Thunder, sports crimson ringlets and a nose ring and fishnets and Doc Martens, all the whole flaunting the car-wreck sensuality of a porn star.

At a frat party, Tessa, in an outfit so modest that one girl snickers at it as if it were a sackcloth, gets drawn into a game of Truth or Dare, a surefire way to reveal that (duh!) she’s still a virgin.

And then there’s Hardin Scott, the moody British dreamboat played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, the 21-year-old nephew of Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, who has dagger eyebrows, expensive hair, and a smirky overripeness that suggests the second coming of Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

“Hardin is complicated,” someone warns Tessa. And that’s not all he is. Hardin is deep. Hardin is trouble. Hardin thinks that Elizabeth Bennet, the demandingly ardent heroine of “Pride and Prejudice,” “needs to chill.”

We’re immediately confused by Hardin’s personality. Yes, he’s attractive, but this perfect face seems to outright act like a jerk all the time for no reason. Instead of flaunting a hidden knowledge and passion for literature and using this to prove his obvious intelligence, he pokes fun at classic artworks to rile up his classmates.

As the audience, we’re on Tessa’s side. This guy’s a jerk. No amount of hotness, however tempting, could take the jerk out of the man.

Or… is there a way to get through to him?

That’s the problem with these movies. The love interest is always unattainably beautiful, the leading lade mirrors this with her flawless features and we as the poor human being watching this media come to the conclusion that you have to look a certain way to find love.

As well as, stereotypical, the male counterpart usual treats his female partner with disrespect and even aggression at times. Psychologically manipulating people or patterns of domestic violence are often shown in a better light in these types of films. It is considered romantic to punch another human being in the face for your loved one.

The other unfortunate thing is often these leads are white, young, heterosexuals.

It doesn’t make the film any less powerful in its own right, but it does make us wonder of the cultural biases within the organisation that created this movie.

Rotten tomatoes, however, gave the film one star.

Tepid and tired, After‘s fun flourishes are let down by its generic story.

Rotten Tomatoes

In their defence, there are many overused cliches in this film. For example, we’ve already touched upon the star roles but their history also seems cliche. Girl wants to escape family life, girl sick of a parent controlling her, girl meets z wild boy who makes her feel free. These are tropes of the romantic genre. Follow too many and you’re called generic, and rightly so.

Some other reviews have been more cutting:

That biological reality theoretically makes me less than qualified to review the screen adaptation of Anna Todd’s novel, part of a series of fan-fiction books inspired by the band One Direction, and its member Harry Styles in particular. But I feel confident that even if I were to be magically transformed into the target demographic, I would still find After to be a cliched, mediocre affair. Come back, Twilight, all is forgiven.

Frank Scheck – Hollywood Reporter

If a good number of these observations seem to focus on the sex (or the probable lack thereof), it’s only because nothing else in the movie rises to a similar level of interest—and definitely not to a level of such confused intrigue (save for some strange, plot-mandated choices on the part of a couple of side players, such as Tessa’s mother all but disowning her daughter upon discovering the relationship).

Tessa is left mostly as a blank slate, to move with the whims of the story and to react to Hardin’s evolving outlook on her as a romantic interest. Her characterisation is poor. We don’t actually know her, and she is the lead!

Does she like sports? Does she play video games? What books does she read? We get more about Hardin than we ever do about Tessa. All Tessa seems to like is being touched and chasing Hardin.

The performances are consistently monotone, and the dialogue is alternately treacly, in terms of romantic statements, and on-the-nose, in terms of giving Hardin a back story to explain his rebel act.

There’s one moment in “After” when the two inevitable lovers dive underwater, and we’re left with only the stillness and quiet of a lake. “It’s beautiful, the silence,” Hardin says upon emerging. You have no idea, kid.

Cliches and tropes aside, if you are in the mood for romance or particularly susceptible to love, this film could be for you. The music is great, the acting solid, but the writing and story development is what knocks it back.

Appleby Ink Rating: ★★★


Parents need to know that After — a college-set romance based on Anna Todd’s best-selling novel — deals frankly with sex. Despite a lack of actual nudity, several scenes feel very sexually explicit and include kissing, intimate touching, implied oral sex, and the loss of virginity. But the main characters (played by Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin) don’t rush into sex despite their intense attraction, and all scenes are consensual. There’s both same-sex and opposite-sex kissing. Parents are portrayed as struggling to overcome flaws themselves, including alcoholism and broken marriages. Partying, with alcohol and drugs, is depicted as a fact of college life. Infrequent swearing includes a use of “s–t.” Teens may pick up positive messages about love and friendship, but they could also walk away with superficial notions of romance and college life.

Read more:

AFTER | British Board of Film Classification”BBFC. British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 5 August 2019.

“After (2019)”Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 31, 2019.

Hipes, Patrick (July 23, 2018). “‘After’ Movie Based On Anna Todd’s YA Books Seals Aviron Pictures Deal, Gets 2019 Release Date”Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 3, 2018.

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