Director: Jenny Gage
Cast: Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Khadijha Red Thunder
Watch After online in the UK: Netflix UK
Every month, we highlight films directed by women on Netflix UK. We call it Women on Netflix.
After’s journey to the big screen is rather unique. Based on a work of One Direction fan fiction originally published on Wattpad, the story attracted millions of views before being published – followed by four sequels. It follows Tessa Young (Josephine Langford – the younger sister of 13 Reasons Why star Katherine Langford) as she begins college away from the watchful gaze of her over-protective mother (Selma Blair) and finds herself drawn to the Harry Styles-inspired Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin – nephew of Ralph and Joseph Fiennes).
Hardin is a mysterious, tattooed bad boy, who quotes Wuthering Heights and thinks love is a purely transactional affair. For most of the film, he is unlikeable and, at time, verges on borderline abusive, making it hard to root for him and Tessa.
The main issue with After is there’s just nothing original about it, as Tessa and Hardin’s tale is clearly influenced by other love stories such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey (which both also lean towards problematic). Theirs is a love story plagued by misunderstandings and melodrama, as they fall for each other, despite the meddling of their friends and warnings of their family. The dialogue is at best uninspired and at worst cringe-inducing.
Langford does her best with the limited material she has to work with, and with a stronger story could be given a chance to shine, but she struggles to make an impact here. Similarly, Fiennes Tiffin fails to make an impact as most of his performance seems to be centred around looking as brooding and angsty as possible. The side characters are all generic and interchangeable, with only Khadijha Red Thunder as Tessa’s roommate, Steph, and Shane Paul McGhie as Hardin’s step-brother managing to leave any kind of impression. Selma Blair gives it her all as Tessa’s mother, but suffers from her being under-used.
This is director Jenny Gage’s follow-up to her 2016 documentary All This Panic, which followed a group of teenage girls over the course of three years, and her familiarity with how teenagers interact does come across her. However, even with that, she fails to find a way to lift the dialogue and develop the characters. There’s the occasional shot that stands out, hinting at the film this could have been, but, on the whole, it’s an uninspired affair. With a sequel reportedly already in pre-production, hopefully the characters, and actors, are given a bit more to do and a few more risks are taken.
After is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.