Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
The consequences of giving your heart and body to someone will not be your life partner
The seriousness of losing one’s virginity outside of marriage
What is SEXUAL IMMORALITY? Answer
What is WISDOM? and why is it vital? Answer
How far is TOO FAR? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer
How can I deal with TEMPTATIONS? Answer
What are the CONSEQUENCES of sexual immorality? Answer
Josephine Langford … Tessa Young
Hero Fiennes Tiffin … Hardin Scott
Khadijha Red Thunder … Steph Jones
Selma Blair … Carol Young
Jennifer Beals … Karen Gibson
Peter Gallagher … Ken Scott
Meadow Williams … Professor Soto
Samuel Larsen … Zed Evans
Inanna Sarkis … Molly Samuels
Pia Mia … Tristan
Dylan Arnold … Noah
Shane Paul McGhie … Landon Gibson
Rebecca Lee Robertson … Rebecca
See all »
See all »
Though billed as a “smoldering” teenage love story, nothing about “After” is remotely unique or controversial.
Fresh on her college campus, the shy bookworm Tessa Young (Josephine Langford) bids her mother and high school boyfriend goodbye and settles into her dorm. Her outgoing, adventurous roommate Steph (Khadijha Red Thunder) has friends in and out of her room, among them the moody, broody, and intense Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin). He is a self-proclaimed cynic who does not believe in love.
After a heated exchange in English Lit. about whether Mr. Darcy is delusional or right about Elizabeth Bennet, the pair of them start shooting off sparks whenever they are in the same room. Tessa cannot stand him, but feels drawn to him. Hardin tells her he is not interested in falling in love. “I can turn it on and off,” he boasts.
She does not listen.
A trip to the lake turns romantic for them. A misunderstanding sends her running to his door to console him. Tessa’s boyfriend feels hurt. Her mother does not like her skipping class to spend time with this boy. Her life melts down, because she feels drawn to this lonely, tattooed lad. But you learn the hardest lessons when you let go, and let yourself fall in love.
The only thing controversial about this teen romance is how dull, predictable, and formulaic it is. It is the exact same scenario we have seen play out on countless screens (most of them small, in the form of teen soaps): good girl meets bad boy, falls in love. He introduces her to sex. She has her heart broken. She heals him. They find each other again. Except… the acting is dreadful. If you want to convince me two young people are in love, and unable to stand not being together, you need crackling chemistry of the sort usually found in Nicholas Sparks adaptations. These two do not have it. And that makes the “tension” bland.
I can see how this film might appeal to the romanticism of its target audience, which is preteen and teenage girls. The fantasy of meeting a boy not interested in love, and being so amazing he changes his mind and falls head over heels in love with you, is something most girls experience at age fifteen. But the truth is, a girl can’t change a guy. Only a relationship with Jesus can transform a life. The idea is setting up girls for a lifetime of disappointment.
Behavior-wise, there’s nothing positive to emulate here. Tessa cheats on a nice boy. She ignores another nice, responsible and respectful boy who has an interest in her, and hones in on Hardin because he’s hot. Unlike her high school senior boyfriend, he touches her. He kisses her. He makes her heart throb. He doesn’t send her texts in the middle of the night, telling her he’s disappointed in her fallen standards. Unlike her boyfriend.
From a secular perspective, there is nothing wrong with this kind of romance. Young people fall in lust. They all need their heart broken at least once. But true love prevails, even if other people get hurt.
Christ called us to live a different kind of life, to be faithful to the ones who place their trust in us. Tessa lies to her mother. She then walks away from her mother when told to dump Hardin. They do eventually make up, but she won’t listen to her mother’s advice about getting her heart broken. She hurts her faithful and chaste boyfriend because she is “confused.” All her decisions are selfish.
Hardin also lies to his friends about his relationship, and hurts Tessa badly, because he’s unwilling to stand up for their relationship in front of others. He lets her believe the worst, because he’s a coward.
Content-wise, there is a lot of touching, heavy breathing, kissing, and a sex scene. Hardin asks if she is “sure,” and she says yes. There is some movement and shots of them from the shoulders up. They bathe together. Hardin scribbles “I love you” on her back in soap suds. They strip down and swim together in the lake, followed by breathy close-ups of him caressing her bare waist. He often undoes her pants and kisses her abdomen.
Tessa’s roommate is either gay or bisexual, and is shown undressing with and making out with a girlfriend. Steph “shames” Tessa by calling her a virgin. Tessa refuses to kiss Hardin on a dare.
There is some bad language. Hardin punches a boy who is hitting on Tessa. He references a traumatic past, in which we are not sure if a gang raped his mother or beat her senseless.
When scrolling through movie recommendations after this flick, I saw an advertisement for another teenage romantic drama, “Five Feet Apart.” It has a similar premise in that a girl sets out to save a boy from his depressive self… but unlike this story, that boy becomes “worthy” because he adopts an attitude of selflessness. He loves her enough to do what is best for her. It’s a far better film, with much stronger chemistry and a more heart-wrenching, but also satisfying, ending.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.