Associate Features Editor
Sex, partying, jealousy, cheating, fights, and drama make for an eventful Freshman year in the film “After,” directed by Jenny Gage. The movie is based on a book series written by Anna Todd after her Harry Styles fan fiction piece on storytelling platform Wattpad gained popularity.
Josephine Langford plays college Freshman Tessa Young, a stereotypical good girl who is in a relationship with her high school sweetheart Landon Gibson (Shane Paul McGhie). Tessa leads a safe and sheltered life until she meets Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin), a troubled bad boy with tattoos and ocean colored eyes.
The film depicts a predictable romance where the good girl meets the bad guy who her mother hates, and spoiler alert, they have some spicy interactions.
Tessa has always been told who to be by her boyfriend and her mother. When she meets Hardin, she is forced to re-evaluate what she really wants out of life and a partner.
“After” includes representation for the LGBTQ+ community because Tessa’s roommate Steph (Khadijha Red Thunder), is in a lesbian relationship with Tristan (Pia Mia). The couple is portrayed just as a straight couple would be; they kiss, cuddle, and hangout.
“After” also accurately shows what consent and safe sex look like. In the scene where Tessa and Hardin have sex, Hardin repeatedly asks Tessa if she is sure and if she wants to stop. He listens to her when she says to go slow and he takes a condom out of the nightstand and puts it on before they have sex. This sets the film apart from other romantic dramas where make out sessions and flashes of skin are the only parts shown during sex scenes.
Rotten Tomatoes reports that “After” has a 79% audience rating. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes have compared the film to “50 Shades of Grey” and “Twilight.” It is very much a Nicholas Sparks film for college students.
“After” is a bit unrealistic, particularly when Hardin conjures up a whole apartment for himself and Tessa to stay in when her mother cuts her off. Neither character has a job and Hardin seems not to need one since his father is rich. The parties they attend are held in houses that are much nicer than traditional frat basements.
In some ways “After” is just another movie that sets unrealistic expectations for young girls about relationships. Afterall, the movie was based on a fanfiction where Tessa meets Harry Styles so it makes sense that it’s purely fantasy for most people.
Once Tessa finds out that a cruel dare is what originally made Hardin interested in her, she must decide whether he really loves her. She must also decide if it really matters. Hardin took her virginity just to prove to his friends that he could.
He says that things have changed and that she is what he loves most in the world, and the audience is left on a cliff-hanger where Tessa and Hardin are seen back at the dock. This leads the audience to believe that the couple is not over.
The way that Tessa and Hardin’s relationship began is not iconic. Manipulation and cheating should not be idolized. Also, Tessa throwing her whole life away and cutting ties with her mom for Hardin sucks. These aspects definitely make for an intense plot, but certain aspects should not be romanticized in real life.
“After” is a must see for anyone who loves romantic dramas and films based on books.