After (2019)

dir. Jenny Gage

The tragic fact that After is adapted from a book which in turn served as Wattpad fanfiction based on Harry Styles still underserves how atrocious, insulting, and downright dangerous a film it really is. Our insipid heroine Tessa goes to college and falls for the supposedly mysterious and alluring Hardon Scott, who in turn finds his bad-boy exterior crumbling in the face of Tessa’s alleged effervescent charms. So far, so YA – except After takes these clichés to extremes while refusing to regard itself as anything except unique and rebellious. Thus, we’re supposed to like Hardin, even as he lies, whines, and buys his way into Tessa’s affections. We’re supposed to root for the sullen rebel who wears only black clothes, even as he flies into drunken rages and waxes lyrical on his casually misogynistic musings in the middle of class. We’re supposed to find it beautiful and enigmatic when he seemingly mocks Tessa for spending time learning about stars while they’re both sitting in an astronomy lecture. Fundamentally, we’re supposed to be invested in a relationship founded in nothing but toxicity, deceit, and manipulation. Even more depressing is the consideration that After‘s soft lighting, sweeping music, and lingering camera shots will make impressionable young girls and women believe a relationship like this is to be aspired to, rather than avoided at all costs. Naturally, a film this misguided and harmful could only go on to spawn After We Collided.

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