This has got to be the sloppiest sop-fest in the recent history of romantic cinema. Awkward and uneven, clumsily written and maladroitly performed, AFTER thinks (if it thinks at all) that teen romance watchers have not grown up over the years, that they still sit around watching saccharine sagas of star-crossed love where boy meets girl in college, girl hates boy, boy smirks… Soon they are playing Truth Or Dare together and discussing the finer points of Jane Austen and Emily Bronte.
The romance doesn’t grow. It springs out of the plot like a rabbit from a magician’s hat.
The attempts to imbue literary heft to the light-headed love tale feel flat and fall with a thud. Pride and prejudice are not the agenda in this dimestore version of “Wuthering Heights”. Just how effective literary references can be in aromantic plot is illustrated in that outstanding Korean film BURNING, where William Faulkner makes a significant guest appearance.
AFTER is the reverse of that process where literature is woven into the fabric of romance. Here, the characters are so shallow that they look like they have googled Hollywood’s best romantic films to know how they should behave in a relationship.
Neither Tessa nor Hardin seem to feel any of the passion they mouth in the karaoke version of Eric Segal’s LOVE STORY.
Not a single genuine moment is shared between the lead pair. Josephine Langford as the working class virgin (just why her lack of sexual experience should even come up for consideration in the plot, admittedly corny to the core, is beyond comprehension) is passable, though never exceptional (God forbid).
Her significant other is played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, who seems a distant cousin of Ryan O’Neal and Robert Pattinson.
Fieenes-Tiffins plays Hardin, one of those complex rich bratty revellers who spend their millions drinking and driving expensive cars over the edge. Sadly, this mix of wealth and catastrophe eludes the wealthy heir in this film.
The romantic interest seems to play itself out purely by numbers. We know where this couple is going, and frankly we don’t give a damn. Rarely have I seen a more disaffecting love story.
By the end of the tortuously pretentious storytelling when a shocking revelation is made, I was left wondering who would want to watch AFTER while AVENGERS: ENDGAME is playing next door. Not even Tessa and Hardin. May their combined souls rest in peace.
- By Subhash K. Jha