After (2019) Movie Review – A toxic couple from start to finish

A Glorification of Toxic Men

After was released in 2019 and is based on a novel series of the same name. Anna Todd, the author of said novels, is a fan of the popular British boy band – One Direction. The characters of this story are loosely based on members of the boy group. With Hardin Scott based on singer Harry Styles, the story also features other band members as different characters.

There had been so much chatter around the novels when there were first released on Wattpad and the fan-fiction series received a lot of backlash for its portrayal of a heavily toxic relationship. The books portray a boy and a girl in a chaotic relationship where they grow together, explore their sexuality, try to change for the love they hold as well as change their lives to bring it to a “happily ever after”.

After narrates the story of Theresa Young aka Tessa, a high school graduate who is moving to a new college. She is the daughter of a single mother who brought Tessa up after her father had abandoned them. Tessa is dating Noah and is starting college where she shares a hostel room with Steph. Tessa’s mother dislikes Steph and her friends, including Hardin.

Steph and her group are poles apart from Tessa and she clashes with Hardin on the day she first meets him. After Tessa is embroiled in the middle of a toxic bet between two of Steph’s guy friends, Hardin and Zed, Hardin finds himself getting attached to Tessa.

Fans who have watched the movies over the years are aware that the After series has been notorious for portraying the most toxic relationship to ever exist. We have the typical trope like betting over making the virgin main lead fall in love (or lose her virginity as in the books) with/to the bad boy who is using her.

With Hardin being infatuated with Tessa because of her contrasting opinions when it comes to Literature, and Tessa immortalizing the “I can fix him” trope, we find a huge cesspool of toxic tropes being glorified in this and the movies that follow. From Hardin gaslighting Tessa who is in a relationship, and Tessa losing her identity as she tries to become someone she is not in order to seek the attention of a boy she is drawn to, the movie is as angsty as it can get.

Tessa seeks the love she did not get when her father abandoned her but also wants to see the wild side in contrast to how her mother raised her. Hardin on the other hand, is just a British bad boy who is toxic to the core. He throws a fit when he doesn’t get it his way and our damsel falls for it all the time.

The performances in this movie were average at best with Hero Fines-Tiffin making his big screen debut after appearing as child Voldermort in the Harry Potter series. We have Katherine Langford from 13 Reasons Why, with fame’s sister Josephine Langford appearing as the main lead as well.

After aims to give fans a new love story to look forward to but the toxicity is overwhelming. The beginning of Tessa and Hardin’s journey put many fans off from the subsequent sequels that have been released over the last few years. With a failing story and pretty average performances, After is a one-time watch at best; a guilty pleasure for most where sex takes over the story when common sense has left the chat.

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  • Verdict - 3/10

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