Cast: Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Selma Blair, Jennifer Beals, Peter Gallagher, Shane Paul McGhie, Khadijha Red Thunder
Director: Jenny Gage
Rating: * * *
Helmer Jenny Gage and scriptwriter Susan McMartin’s adaptation of Anna Todd’s best-selling young adult romance novel about the rocky relationship between two young students hits the right notes mostly about the travails of young love, first love.
Who hasn’t experienced its highs and lows and struggles? Blushes, flushes, gushes, hearts skipping beats, giggles; but nah, there’s little of that in “After”. A rom-com this film is decidedly not and a discordant note is sounded right at the very beginning when Tessa Young (Josephine Langford, sweet) suffers the presence of obnoxious Brit Hardin Scott, (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, nephew of Ralph and Joseph Fiennes) who is lounging in the room she shares with Khadijha Red Thunder. Worse. He refuses to leave and even lapses into an insulting rant.
Being nice and wholesome doesn’t mean one has to be a doormat; unfortunately, the world is populated with far too many people who equate meekness with weakness. I’d like to slot Hardin in this mentally calcified category except that he LOVES books. So, how could I?
“Hardin is complicated,” a classmate warns Tessa. The reason why he is like that only is explained in the second half. Before that, Hardin and Tessa surprise us with insightful exchanges on literary classics. Like, Elizabeth Bennet (the plucky heroine of “Pride and Prejudice”) “needs to chill” and “The Great Gatsby” was all “a dream”, Hardin tells Tessa who retorts “it was all a lie”.
The Hardin character has reportedly been modelled on the pop group One Direction’s lead singer Harry Styles. But, Hardin reminded me of Wuthering Heights’ brooding hero Heathcliff. Literary debates notwithstanding, Hardin says he doesn’t care a fig about anyone but himself and as we learn in due course, the reason for his abrasive behaviour is a trauma which rears its head at the engagement reception of his father, (Peter Gallagher) and new fiancée (Jennifer Beals).
I’d have liked to see more of them. However, the film focuses on the young lovers. Our heroine’s cloistered world changes when she meets Hardin. Their romance is explored slowly and sensitively, in intimate camerawork as they get to know each other.