After We Fell (2021)
While these After films are painful to watch, I understand their appeal, particularly for the teenage crowd. They’re glossy, steamy, and have plenty of yearning and sex. This is especially evident in After We Fell, the third film in the YA romance series based on the new adult fiction novel of the same name by Anna Todd. After We Fell is a bit more self-aware than its predecessors, the film literally made up of scenes strung together to get our attractive leads to bonk; then again, this franchise has always advertised itself as a younger Fifty Shades of Grey. However, this third installment shows signs that the series’ X factor is beginning to fade, the film banking on the credibility and goodwill of the former chapters. After We Fell has very little conflict or point, and the characters have next to no progression or growth.
The movie opens where the second, After We Collided, finished. Tessa Young (Josephine Langford) has just discovered that her father (Atanas Srebrev) is the homeless man who confronted her brooding, inked-up boyfriend, Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), which was revealed at the close of the previous film. Of course, this potentially emotional father-daughter storyline is quickly ditched for some silly melodrama about Tessa wanting to move to Seattle after Christian Vance (Stephen Moyer), the owner of a successful publishing house, offers her a job with his company. This frustrates Hardin seeing as he has other plans; he wants to take Tessa to London to meet his mother, Trish Daniels (Louise Lombard). And the idea of a long-distance relationship doesn’t sit well with Hardin either.
Now living under the same roof, the couple decides on a ‘No Secrets’ agreement, which quickly gets thrown out the window. Adding fuel to the fire, Hardin is constantly sulking and getting angry, and over some pretty childish stuff, too — like a dream he has of Tessa hooking up with some other guy. And Tessa, she’s making idiotic decisions that are clearly going to piss off her bad boy bae, such as flirting with hunky waiter Robert (Carter Jenkins). Naturally, these petty disagreements are designed to turn our steamy couple on and get them ready for make-up sex and plenty of it. There’s a jacuzzi scene, phone sex, you name it.
Penned by Sharon Soboil — who’s been tapped to write the fourth and hopefully final installment, Happily Ever After (2022) — After We Fell has minimal depth, drama, or any real significance — most of this one’s a slump. The discord we do get is forced and uninteresting, and considerable effort is made to create tension out of seemingly frivolous situations. The challenges our on-and-off lovebirds face are trivial, and Soboil tries desperately hard to make these minor issues seem unsurmountable. Although Tessa is still struggling to deal with her shaky past and Hardin fighting to resolve his emotional vulnerabilities, there is almost no character development. Bar a small revelation in the film’s final act, not much meat has been added to the narrative bones.
After We Fell is directed by Castille Landon, who is set to return for next year’s Happily Ever After. The film sports a sleek production; it’s nicely lensed and rather atmospheric, despite having a television/ small screen-type aesthetic.
Leads Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin are flat and apathetic; granted, they haven’t got a heap of material to play with. Langford looks tired and weary and is missing much of her charm and enthusiasm, while Fiennes Tiffin’s constant moping and brooding is becoming increasingly frustrating and annoying. But hey, at least Hero’s Hardin takes up boxing; and that’s his entire arc in a nutshell.
All the secondary characters have been recast, which makes it confusing as f*ck to tell who the hell’s who, unless, of course, you’re a die-hard fan. Landon Gibson, who’s Tessa’s friend/ confidant and Hardin’s step ‘bro,’ is now played by Chance Perdomo, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018-2020), and he does okay in his handful of scenes. But one’s gotta feel for poor Mira Sorvino, whom I love; she’s been given an insignificant non-speaking role as Tessa’s mother Carol, a part that formerly belonged to Selma Blair. It’s only True Blood’s Stephen Moyer who leaves an inkling of an impression as the CEO of Vance Publishing, Christian; Moyer is given the only plot point worth remembering.
After We Fell is a hollow and unremarkable affair; the whole thing feels like a big, fat deleted scene. Ending with a ‘To Be Continued’ caption, one’s gotta wonder about the future of this series. The audience’s patience must surely be running thin by now, with these films being essentially about nothing — bar post-fight sex. And, as far as the ‘conflict’ between Tessa and Hardin is concerned, there’s not much of a hook going into the fourth entry. Still, there’s something perversely addictive about these awful After films. They’re just so bad, but you can’t stop watching. I guess everyone loves a good train wreck every now and then.
1.5 / 5 – Poor
Reviewed by Stu Cachia (S-Littner)