The latest in young adult films, a teenage romance, a story we have heard so many times before, but why is it so popular?
After started out as a fanfiction about One Direction on Wattpad, written by Anna Todd. The books were then picked up and actually published by Simon and Schuster before being turned into a film series.
I first found out about this series when I saw the trailer (Netflix I think) and was intrigued. What’s weird is that the trailer presented it to be some kind of murder mystery. It was great at capturing the audience but not so good at representing what it is about. Editing really does make all the difference.
The story follows Hardin (a bad boy) and Tessa (a good girl) during their university years. They cross paths one night and Hardin drags Tessa away from everything she has known, making her fall in love with him. During that time, he falls in love with her. That’s the main thing you need to know as there are parts of the story that get quite complex and I don’t want to spoil anything. Throughout the book, they have countless challenges both as a couple but individually too. It’s never clear until the end of the series will they end up together or won’t they.
I read the book series after watching the trailer and fell in love. It’s been a long time since I read so many books so quickly but the characters are relatable and a lot of it feels very real. Personally, I prefer reading the books before watching the films, but by the time I had finished reading the books, I had seen a lot of negative reviews about the first After film. That meant I didn’t bother watching it until recently. By then, the second film (After We Collided) was out too so this is my review of the two.
Going into it, my expectations were incredibly low. I saw that a lot of people hated it, the script is meant to be awful and there is nothing captivating about the film. Watching the first After film, I found myself smiling a lot; for two reasons. One is that I know the story and the film acts as a highlight reel, reminding me of a few plot points but seeing it live rather than imagined. The second was that there are some awkward moments (possibly due to directing or the script, I’m not really sure) but then it makes it funny to watch. It reminded me of Twilight. When I watch those, I laugh at some moments because they seem silly but either way, I’m enjoying the film. The first After film was clearly designed with a younger audience in mind as it’s toned down. That’s not necessarily a problem generally speaking but in doing so, they have missed the point of the story. This is a bad guy who drags Tessa down into his world and there are moral issues there. The After film just ignores it which makes the drama seem over the top. There isn’t enough character development to make the relationships clear, which again, can leave the viewers confused. My biggest disappointment was Zed. His character is crucial in the books and he has a significant relationship with Tessa which is missed out in both films. After feels like an Indie film and I didn’t mind it honestly as I knew the story and therefore, wasn’t confused. There were some good music choices and it reminded me what it feels like to be a teenager again.
After We Collided goes for a totally different approach. Tessa’s character matures tremendously but Hardin’s does not. There is a lot of drama but similarly to the first, it doesn’t make sense. Hardin in the books is very possessive which doesn’t come across in the films. He just has random outbursts of anger which seem unwarranted. If they had addressed Zed and Tessa in the first film then the second one would make more sense. There are a number of scenes that are unrealistic but that’s to do with the script. I liked the shift in drama as it reflected the books better, but it doesn’t follow on from the first film so as a sequel doesn’t tie in well.
Overall, I like the films but that’s because I liked the books. It’s a realistic story and the fact that people aren’t fond of Hardin in the second one is good. They are young adults figuring themselves out. Hardin has issues he needs to work through. Tessa is learning to prioritise herself. There is toxicity in their relationship but I don’t think it promotes it. After and After We Collided reflects what a real teenage relationship can be like, especially when you are dealing with true love. It’s easy to have no drama when you don’t really love someone. Your first serious relationship, we all want to be perfect but often it’s not. These films feel real to me, including the awkward dialogue and over the top drama. Teenagers are awkward, especially navigating new areas of life.
In my honest opinion, it would have been better to put these books into a series. Character development is crucial but there was no way in the films to give the screen time. If you’ve watched the series Normal People, you could see how it wouldn’t work as a film. The After book series is written with a good pace so there’s not a lot that can be cut out.
If you want to watch the films, I would highly recommend reading the books first so that you can enjoy them. It’ll give you a chance to fully understand the characters and how they are supposed to interact. The films only show a small portion of it.
After - 6/10
After We Collided - 6.5/10