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‘Movies based on books based on fanfiction have been gaining ground in Hollywood in recent years. The phenomena first emerged with the erotic drama “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which was originally based on a “Twilight” fanfiction written by E.L. James, whose work was picked up by a publisher after the names were changed. Last week, another fanfiction-turned-novel- turned-movie by the name “After” was released, and was as underwhelming and convoluted as the original work.
“After” was originally written on the popular fanfiction website Wattpad under the same title and featured the members of former boy band One Direction. Similarly to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the author, Anna Todd, changed the character names of the fanfiction when she sold the rights to the story in order to avoid legal issues. “After” was originally published as a novel in October 2014, and many people were surprised it got that far.
The movie adaptation is framed as an enthralling romance story where the virginal good girl, Tessa Young (Josephine Langford), falls for the bad boy with daddy issues, Hardin Scott (Hero Finnes-Tiffin) — but realistically, this movie demonstrates an unhealthy relationship. This is such a common archetypal trope in young adult fiction that it was almost easy to predict what would occur throughout the film.
Scott’s character was originally written with Harry Styles, a former One Direction member and current solo artist, in mind. In the original fanfiction, the character had all of Styles’ traits, and many of them carried over to the movie, from his English accent to the signature tattoos spread all over his body. However, Scott’s persona could not be further from Styles’ real-life personality — the fictional bad boy has a bad attitude and is downright manipulative toward Young. This is a concerning disparity seeing as his character is supposedly based off of Styles, making it seem as though Styles himself is a manipulative and abusive bad guy.
“After” should never have been made into a book, much less made it to the big screen. None of the characters in the movie were dynamic, and they all fell pretty deeply into stereotypical roles — the innocent goody two-shoes and the punk friend who’s a bad influence, to name a few. None of these characters really change over the course of the movie and their presence is very static. Their roles are very basic and do not change or add much significance to the film itself.
Young is the stereotypical studious rule-follower who has been dating her high school boyfriend, Noah (Dylan Arnold), for years. Young’s mother (Selma Blair) is a helicopter mom who has Young’s whole life planned out for her. When she drops Young off at college and meets Steph (Khadijha Red Thunder), an alternative-punk girl and Young’s roommate, she demands Young go to the office to get a new room, seeing as Steph clearly is not good enough for her daughter because she looks like she listens to Nirvana.
Soon after moving in, Young is greeted by Scott, a broody bad boy sitting on her roommate’s bed. His attitude toward her could be called coarse at best, and this is the first time the audience sees the two interact. Scott uses his deep-rooted daddy issues as an excuse to be horrible to others, which is never really brought up or called out in the film as it should be.
While the characterizations are simplistic, the plot was far too confusing and just as unrealistic. The creator of this fanfiction was clearly out of touch with what college life is like, and this is shown throughout the plot — the characters are shown playing truth and dare at a party in one of the first scenes, which is barely in fashion in high school, let alone at a college party. Viewers also see a large emphasis put on the fact that Young is a virgin, something which these days usually doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter socially.
Another irritating aspect of this film is the way in which it portrays relationships. Young has a boyfriend back home who she is supposedly in love with, yet after approximately three days of knowing Scott, she’s already falling for him — even though he’s only been rude to her thus far.
The relationship between Young and Scott eventually grows to the point where she breaks up with her boyfriend, which drives her mother — who we’ve already seen throw a fit over a roommate after one meeting — to cut her daughter off. This plot point made no sense realistically, as Young and her mother’s bond was supposedly unbreakable, and seems as if it was thrown into the film just to advance the relationship between Scott and Young. The movie ventures further into the absurd when Scott and Young move into an apartment with each other, even though it seems they’ve only known each other for a few weeks.
Honestly, the best part of the movie was the camerawork, which was decent at best, save a few disasters. In fact, the most climactic scene in the movie is marked by Langford’s character breaking into tears. The cinematography led to giggles spreading throughout the theater as the camera slowly panned at a glacial pace to her sobbing.
Overall, the movie was fake and cliche and not in a good way like “Twilight.” Between the manipulative relationship being portrayed as romantic and the flat, sometimes discriminatory characterization, “After” would have been better if left on paper, or better yet, stored in the depths of the mind of its creator.