After: Missing the spark (Reviews)

Deepa Gahlot
Friday, 3 May 2019

Director: Jenny Gage
Starring: Hero Fiennes-Tiffin,  Josephine Langford, Selma Blair and others
Rating: * *

Tessa, the goody-two-shoes heroine of Jenny Gage’s After (based on Anna Todd’s YA novel), could join Bella of the Twilight series and Anastasia of the Fifty Shades series (books and films) as one of the most annoying young female characters in the movies.

Tessa (Josephine Langford), leaves behind controlling mother Carol (Selma Blair) and boyfriend Noah (Dylan Arnold) to go to college in Washington, where other students are care-a-damn bold. Much to her mother’s dismay, her roommates are the bisexual Steph (Khadijha Red Thunder) and her gal pal Tristan (Pia Mia).

Eventually, a studious girl like Tessa would encounter the typical Bad Boy, and in this film, he is the heavily tattooed Hardin Scott (played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, nephew of Ralph and Joseph Fiennes), who has the sexy good looks and brash attitude of a member of a boy band. Apparently, the soggy novel is part of a series of fan-fiction books inspired by One Direction’s Harry Styles, who at the height of the band’s fame had the ability to make teenage girls swoon.

But, Hot Hardin reads the classics (he has a classroom argument with Tessa over Pride And Prejudice), smirks and smoulders — after all he has to project sex appeal for two! — and has a dark secret (which turns out to be quite lame). Of course, he makes some insouciant efforts to attract Tessa, who is quick to dump nerdy Noah and falls for Hardin. Girls in fiction tend to do that, especially if they are warned that the boy is ‘trouble’.

One wonders if the melodramatic and predictable After, with its soundtrack of syrupy pop music —would even attract its target audience of youngsters; anyone out of their teens would probably have their teeth on edge with all that treacle being poured over phony conflicts. What was meant to be a coming-of-age story or a moony first love yarn is simply without any sizzle or spark. The older actors playing parents — Selma Blair, Peter Gallagher and Jennifer Beals --- look like they have a far more exciting life than their shallow kids.

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