For the YA audience it was originally written for, After is a sizzling hot exploration of the most dramatic moment in a teenager’s life – the losing of one’s virginity – and then what happens after the fact. For the more experienced audience, it’s a relatable moment when you used to think that having sex was a much bigger deal than it is.
Incoming virginal Freshman Tessa Young (Josephine Langford) says goodbye to her high school boyfriend (Dylan Arnold) with a passionless kiss. With her sweet suburban childhood in the rearview mirror, she welcomes her new life at college, seeking some adventure. A bibliophile at heart, she wants to bring to life her love of the adventures she’s been reading about in books. She’s also excited about being away from her overbearing mother, Carol (Selma Blair).
When Tessa meets the troubled, handsome, bad boy, Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), the two bring their shared love of books to a squabbling, flirtatious romance. Hardin admits he doesn’t believe in love, and even though she’s warned not to, Tessa can’t help pursuing the troubled enigma, until he reveals his soft underbelly.
As they consummate their self-proclaimed loveless passions, Tessa is faced with a rough question: what happens after a defining moment of your life? For Hardin, his dark secret becomes fodder to grow closer to Tessa. But will he be able to let go of his past and find beauty in his present moment, with this girl right in front of him?
The answers are as tame as their love and their fights. They are physically, and emotionally young, so there is plenty of room for them to grow. Since the movie is based on a series, there is plenty of time for us to watch them grow, throughout the many sequels. What happens after After is a question sure to be answered.
Susan McMartin’s adaptation of Anna Todd’s YA novel series hits all the right moments somewhat monotonously, allowing little wiggle room for emotion, surprise, or real drama. The Pride and Prejudice allegory on which the relationship of the two leads is theoretically based is a bit of a stretch, especially given the lack of depth in the story.
Director Jenny Gage somehow makes a movie of such little material, as the feature film version of After is essentially an extended sizzling trailer. The sex scenes are steamy, and yet are not explicit. The fights between the two leads don’t cut very deep, so they’re repaired quickly and painlessly.
For parents who want their kids to watch a PG-13 version of Cruel Intentions, but without the interesting plot, After will be a welcome relief from any real romance or sex scenes. For fans of the series and young audiences, this adaptation will ring true and bring some very pretty faces to carry the roles of the main characters.
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