Image courtesy of Netflix
By Kat Kaderabek
The long-anticipated arrival of the second installment in the After series, After We Collided, has finally been released across the United States. The trailer for this book-to-movie adaptation promised intrigue, drama, and more fire between main characters, Hardin and Tessa, than ever before. Instead, the film was laughable with little direction in terms of plot and scenes that were simply ridiculous even for teen-drama standards.
The film began in the weeks following Tessa and Hardin’s falling out, which occurs at the end of the first After film. Their first moment of reconnection is uneventful and unproductive as Tessa simply gives in to the obvious sexual chemistry between her and Hardin. Her brain is conveniently muddled by Hardin’s presence and the backbone she had grown in the previous film suddenly disappears; this continues for the majority of the movie. Each character constantly battles their so-called “need” for each other, but the film is stark in its characterization of Tessa and Hardin as obsessed, immature, and infatuated teenage lovers.
The film promised young romanticism: a portrayal of two soulmates meant for one another; however, this idea of soulmate comes only in the form of their verbal readings of Shakespeare together. Other than this, all of Hardin and Tessa’s best moments are shrouded in sexual innuendos. Their relationship, in which their souls are decidedly made of the same “stuff,” is instead founded on young love rather than that of legend. Yet, in an overture from Hardin, he proclaims their great love is truly the equivalent of Romeo and Juliet.
With little to motivate the plot other than the constant toxicity of their relationship, the audience is forced to turn to side characters, but even they fall short of expectations. Each minor character from the previous film, including Steph and Molly, make only short appearances in the film and even then, their lives only cater to the drama between Tessa and Hardin. Even the addition of Cole Sprouse, who plays an uptight and awkward co-worker named Trevor, does nothing for the plot. His character isn’t even enticing; instead, he is also used as a plot point in the universe that revolves around the main characters.
The film soundtrack was also poorly chosen and inferior to the original After movie. Many of the songs felt awkwardly placed in scenes and too loud for the content on the screen at certain times. Similarly, the filming of the movie was very redundant. Production focused on unnecessary shots of Tessa and Hardin together or lengthy camera pans of scenery. Overall, the movie simply felt rushed and imbalanced.
These laughable experiences are delivered in what are supposed to be dramatic scenes. Instead of filling their characters with warranted emotion, Tessa and Hardin merely look like two angry children. This includes throwing food at one another, banging on doors, kicking down said doors, storming out of rooms, and then awkwardly walking back in. At many points, a scene would escalate so unrealistically quickly that it was too unbelievable for the audience to take it seriously. This comes in most scenes with Hardin, who is supposed to be a troubled and scarred teenage boy but instead comes off as a petulant, aggressive child.
The introduction of Hardin’s mother again does very little for the plot other than show how much of a mama’s boy he is. In a scene where his mother and divorced-father interact with one another, Hardin is the one who flies off the handle.
Even the scenes that are supposed to be intimate and sexy seem forced and uncomfortable. In comparison to the previous movie, the romantic scenes between Hardin and Tessa fall short. There is no level of romanticism between the two, only basic human desire. This is one of the most disappointing attributes of the movie, as the trailer perpetuated a whirlwind romance between two soulmates who are meant to be together, not two children trapped in a toxic relationship.
Despite the failure of this film, the writers of the film are not the culprits of this travesty. Instead, they simply mirrored their film after the original book, After We Collided by Anna Todd, whose writing is to blame for the childish behavior of the characters. In fact, this childish behavior has been speculated to stem directly from the author, who was rumored to have been fired from the set after leaking footage from the new film. She has since denied these rumors.
Anna Todd is not free from controversy. Her character, Hardin Scott, is based on musical sensation Harry Styles and her portrayal of Hardin has caused several Styles fans to speak out against the series. Her books originally appeared on the platform Wattpad as a part of fanfiction. After gaining immense popularity, Todd was able to publish her first book After and subsequently six more texts. Styles is aware of their publication but has refused to comment on the matter.
The amount of controversy surrounding the film brought a certain level of quality to the franchise that After We Collided surely falls short of. With a budget of 14 million in production, the final product was very disappointing for all audiences: fans and foes of the After series.