The thing is, even before watching this film, I could tell I was going to hate it.
which itself was based on Anna Todd’s 2014 novel of the same name, and which was originally published as a Harry Styles-centric fan-fiction on WattPad (a similar path as E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey series).
After follows a young girl, Tessa (Josephine Langford, younger sister of 13 Reasons Why actress Katherine Langford), through her first year of college and her turbulent relationship with Hardin, (Hero Fiennes Tiffin, who some might recognize as a young Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), a pale, British, green-eyed, troublesome young man who manipulates and uses her, only to win her back at the end of the film. Think a mashup of She’s All That and Cruel Intentions, with less witty dialogue.
After We Collided begins with Hardin narrating their love story — a tale worthy of Greek epics and Shakespeare, according to him — and concluding, not with a happy ending, but with Hardin waking alone, in his car, with Tessa refusing to take his calls. Exactly what he deserves, after his miserable treatment of Tessa during their relationship.
But, of course, through a series of cringe-worthy events (A pretend to-be-still-dating trope? In my fanfiction movie? It’s more likely than you think!), the pair are inevitably reunited in all their toxic glory, despite the arrival of a second love interest in the surprising form of Dylan Sprouse as Trevor, one of her new coworkers at a well-to-do publishing company. This is Sprouse’s return to acting after a long hiatus — unlike his brother Cole, who has long-helmed one of the lead roles in the CW’s Riverdale for the past few years.
Sprouse’s character provides most of the comedy of this film, a natural goofball with ridiculous square glasses and who, for whatever reason, talks like a cross between Ron Swanson and a 1930s newsies reporter. Most of his dialogue is him saying things like “I love Ohio football, but I hate nightclubs” — intended to be a natural foil to bad-boy Hardin, and it’s disappointing to watch Tessa reject the respectful and mature Trevor.
Hardin is remarkable for his immaturity and angst-ridden terrible decision making, while Tessa also demonstrates little emotional maturity and constantly lashes out at everyone around her…sometimes literally. Watching their relationship unfold is a bit like watching a car crash- no pun intended.
There is a certain empowerment to teenage girls seeing their stories valued and deemed important in the media, and in a certain manner, After We Collided is the realization of a young woman’s perspective on romance. Simultaneously, though, it feels important to note that a lot of what teen girls romanticize isn’t worth the energy, and isn’t a reflection of healthy relationships in the real world, but of one that is entirely imagined and is, frankly, a bit of a nightmare.
While the script was co-written by Anna Todd, the original author of the After series, there is little other female involvement in the development of the film. The only characters of color are Landon, Tessa’s friend and classmate as well as Hardin’s stepbrother, and his mother, Karen. Tessa’s former roommate Steph, and her girlfriend, Tristan, make a brief cameo, but don’t feature heavily into the plot of the film — which brings up a whole litany of questions about potential plot holes, such as: why has a college freshman decided to move into an off-campus apartment with her boyfriend, while she works full-time at a publishing agency? Has she ever gone to class? It’s impossible to say, or to apply any logic to any of the plot movements of the film, but I suppose that’s a part of the fun.
After We Collided is a Frankenstein’s monster of terrible YA tropes and fan fiction cliches; and a poorly-sewn together one, at that. The characters are inherently unlikable, and every part of it feels like it was written by a sixteen-year-old girl, while simultaneously never letting the viewer forget that the director is a middle-aged white man (Roger Kumble, director of 1999’s Cruel Intentions) via the constant sexual objectification of Tessa.
The film is bookended by quotes from Hardin and Tessa’s favorite novel, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It’s a beautiful story, and one of the best books ever written — and it’s an intense, emotional, and obsessive depiction of love. It’s no wonder teenage girls, especially, are drawn to it — it’s the idea of love before love has really been experienced. That’s what it’s like watching After We Collided — it’s obsessed with itself, intense, and makes little sense. But it definitely wasn’t boring, so I suppose there’s credit due there.
Incluvie Rating: 2
Movie Rating: 2
Originally Published by: Caitlin Fisher on January 18, 2021