Synopsis – The sequel to After (2019)
My Take – Last year in the month of April saw the release of the romantic drama, After, the first installment of author Anna Todd‘s best-selling series, which began life on the storytelling platform Wattpad as One Direction fan fiction, mainly focused on a fictionalized version of Harry Styles and his supposed romantic life. Stories which amassed close to 400 million readers, caught the attention publishers Simon & Schuster, and then film executives, first from Paramount then CalMaple Media and Offspring Entertainment.
However, the big screen adaption upon release ended up drawing mostly negative reviews who called out the film for what it was, a bland flavorless Cruel Intentions meets every other YA romance conceit, that couldn’t decide if it wanted a tone close to Twilight or a Nicholas Sparks adaption. But as the film ended up earning $69 million worldwide on a $14 million budget, a sequel was pretty much guaranteed.
Admittedly, with Anna Todd taking on scripting duties herself, and Roger Kumble (Cruel Intentions) taking on directorial duties, for a more adult take, the results are comparatively superior. The chemistry between the leads have improved, the humor actually hits the mark, and the new characters surprisingly end up adding an extra dimension.
Yet considering all its other aspects, it is still a pretty terrible film. The sequel can be best described as attractive people doing sexy things limited by a PG15 rating and plagued by a one note plot, dreadful dialogue, in comprehensive twists, and the now clichéd YA element of using pop songs to convey actual emotion.
Honestly, despite being an avid reader of genre fiction I have never read any of Anna Todd’s work, but having seen two adaptions only, and knowing that two more sequels, After We Fell and After Ever Happy, have been greenlit to go into back-to-back production, I at least understand the enthusiasm the series has ignited among its targeted group, of which I am clearly not a part of.
Instantly unraveling its predecessor’s seemingly hopeful ending, the story, picking up after a month, once again follows Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) and Tessa Young (Josephine Langford), who have gone their separate ways after it is revealed that Hardin pursued Tessa only on the basis of winning a bet he had placed with his entourage. Now, Tessa, armed with a new confidence, has just landed a dream internship at Vance Publishing Company where she quickly catches the attention of her co-worker Trevor (Dylan Sprouse), the kind of guy she deserves to be with.
However, Tessa cannot get Hardin out of her mind, as despite all their misunderstandings and hardships, she continues to feel the pull towards him. And while Hardin’s stalking and getting basically jealous of everything isn’t helping her case, the arrival of Hardin’s mother, Trish Daniels (Louise Lombard) opens Tessa to the secret of Hardin’s tragic childhood, further defining how hard they have fight to stay together.
As I mentioned above, yes, this one is an improvement over its predecessor, mainly as I I never found the film to drag as there was always something silly happening, but that doesn’t make it a good film exactly. The plot is light and feels thin and episodic rather than deep and structured, and any tension is immediately resolved, with the leads just going from set-up for a fight to set-up to have sex.
Once that is done, they move back to the real world where a series of obstacles stand in the way of the couple’s possible happiness, including an invitation to dinner at the home of Hardin’s father Ken (Rob Estes), a job offer in another city for Tessa, and a misguided revisit to the frat house location of the first film.
It doesn’t help that the film, despite being dominated by daddy issues, misunderstandings and Victoria’s Secret product placement, has such an unlikable lead in the form of Hardin. Does a single traumatic childhood event justify his behavior, which switches between manipulative, babyish and abusive? Well, no.
Coming to the selling point of the film, the supposed sex scenes, just like the Fifty Shades series, are majorly lacking, and come off as just very contrived and hollow.
This is the second in a four-film franchise, and in knowing that we know that not everything is going to be wrapped up and the film will inevitably end with some kind of cliffhanger. The film poses many good moments to end on like car crashes, fights, and they even hint at a possible pregnancy with Hardin forgetting condoms a many time, but the one they settle on is dumb and had very little setup for us to care about.
Performance wise, Hero Fiennes Tiffin clearly has the acting skills, but being stuck in such a thin role, he struggles constantly, but Josephine Langford fares much better, and clearly has the chops to carry a better written dramatic role. Dylan Sprouse, has an absolutely thankless role as Tessa’s possibly-love-interest work friend, but it seemed like he was extremely aware of what kind of film this is and is just having fun, providing the best moments of the film.
While in supporting roles, Louise Lombard, Candice King, Charlie Weber, Selma Blair, Shane Paul McGhie, Rob Estes, Karimah Westbrook, Pia Mia and Inanna Sarkis are alright. On the whole, ‘After We Collided’ is a sexed-up sequel which despite being an improvement over its predecessor, still ends up being bland and uninteresting.
Directed – Roger Kumble
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 105 minutes