A review by Brennan Klein
I have a serious problem. The more terrible an idea for a movie is, the more I absolutely, postiveily have to see it right fucking now. This is how I ended up renting 2019's After, a film adapted from a book series that originated as a Harry Styles fanfiction. In this particular fanfiction, Harry wasn't a member of megahit boyband One Direction, but rather a college bad boy furiously interested in the bland cypher leading lady. Of course, you can't just call the lead of your real-life published novel Harry Styles, so they had to change the name and - you guessed it - strip the character of anything remotely resembling the British crooner. Sign me the hell up. But you know what's a worse idea for a film? A sequel to that movie. So here we are again. I need help.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a bland white woman in possession of the love of a tamed bad boy hottie must be broken up in the opening scene of the next movie so they can fall in love all over again. That's the point where we catch up with our heroine Tessa (Josephine Langford), who has just gotten a prestigious internship at one of those booming publishing companies that only exist in romance films. Her hot boss Christian Vance (Charlie Weber) is thankfully not positioned as a love interest for her (he's already committed to his assistant/girlfriend, played by the next capable blonde actress they could find when Judy Greer surely turned down the role), but her hot coworker Trevor (Dylan Sprouse) is fair game.
One night she gets drunk at a party and nearly hooks up with Trevor. Enter her ex-boyfriend, the rich, non-singing bad boy Hardin Scott (Hero Beauregard Faulkner Fiennes Tiffin, full name only please), who comes to "rescue" her using the location tracker in her phone because jealous possessiveness is mistaken for romance one hundred percent of the time in these movies. They rekindle their romance of course, and hurdles come in the form of family drama, work drama, and Hardin's vigorous commitment to being an insufferable asshole any time the opportunity presents itself.
But I digress. I didn't mean to give you the mistaken impression that After We Collided is concerned with its own plot. Each scene operates on the principle of the ultimatum a drunk Tessa gives to Hardin the first time they reunite: "either you fuck me, or you leave." Reader, he never leaves. In any given scene, Tessa is either getting rip-roaring drunk or mounting Hardin. Or both. And if she isn't, she's either thinking about it, or twenty seconds away from doing it. It isn't a problem for a film to have a lot of sex, but this isn't sex. This is two chiseled mannequins rubbing fronts, abusing their newly upgraded R-rating in the language department but remaining demurely persistent in showing not one inch of the naked human body beyond a two-second shot of a butt.
After We Collided is just like the Fifty Shades of Grey films it is so clearly modeled after: glossy exploitation stripped of every last bit of sleaze. It doesn't stick enough to its convictions to even be bad enough to relish, it's just bland through and through. Now if every scene was peppered with dialogue like Trevor's deranged comment, "I don't do fiction - have you seen how I dress?" or Hardin's insistence that "it could take days, even more" to get over him, then we'd be off to the races. Unfortunately these moments are brief pockets of merriment rather than a tone we can rely on.
Every scene is drizzled in sheeny shiny digital photography that varnishes over every image's potential for personality, running every single dull moment through its slick, vaguely autumnal filter. A side effect of every element of the film being so thoroughly middle-of-the-road is that while it's nowhere near good, it's also not truly abysmal (abysmal might be challenging to sit through, but at least it's interesting). It's a nothing of a movie, with an ending so preordained by the standards of the genre that they forget to really try to throw credible obstacles in its way, and could have just rolled credits at any moment past around minute seven.
Well, that's about it for me. If you want a more thorough analysis of the various components of this film, feel free to look up the definition of "waste of time" in the nearest dictionary. Honestly, maybe I have to thank After We Collided. If every movie I feel irresistibly compelled toward for the wrong reasons was this aggressively insipid, I might have been able to kick this addiction ages ago.
Brennan Klein is a millennial who knows way more about 80's slasher movies than he has any right to. You can find his other reviews on his blog Popcorn Culture. Follow him on Twitter, if you feel like it.