So, if you don’t spend an awful lot of time on Twitter, or you aren’t a fifteen year old girl, you may not be sure what film I’m talking about today – I envy you that. A sequel to the film After, which I watched on Netflix over lockdown in a moment of quarantine based malaise, After We Collided is a literary adaptation of the most dubious variety – it’s based on a fan fiction written about One Direction member Harry Styles, with his name changed to Hardin Scott for obvious reasons. As such, both films are something of a mess, relying on many familiar and embarrassing fan fiction plot devices: a virginal bookworm protagonist, a borderline abusive love interest with a tragic backstory, and an assortment of sexually active women we are guided to despise. However, there’s a key difference between the two movies – the first was rated 12, while the second was rated 15. And boy do they use that rating change.
There isn’t an awful lot of plot, but between sex scenes, flashbacks and car crashes, our protagonist Tessa is navigating a new publishing internship after her traumatic breakup with Hardin, who initially pursued her for a bet, but sincerely fell in love with her along the way. This doesn’t last long, and the relationship throughout the film is a tug of war for Tessa between her irrational love of Hardin and her knowledge that his unreliability is actively harming elements of her life. Nothing is really established or resolved here – there’s no satisfying finish, essentially just a tease for the next in the series, and there’s very few new developments that weren’t already gestured to in the first movie.
I didn’t expect much from After We Collided, and I know that porn with a plot is a pretty common structure for fan fiction, but I honestly wasn’t expecting that to make it to the finished cinematic product. I counted at least five extended sex scenes in the hour and forty five minute long runtime, all of them uncomfortable and incredibly unnecessary. It’s never a good sign when your steamy love scene is being frequently punctuated by audience laughter (from both me, my fiancee and my friend Susie and a group of teenagers behind us), especially when you take your own story so seriously. I have a level of respect for high melodrama, but at times it feels like it can’t fully commit, especially in it’s drab aesthetic – if you’re going to be corny, then really be corny!
Probably the strongest aspect of this film is the cast, with Hero Fiennes Tiffin’s huffy performance as Hardin being the main exception. Josephine Langford puts more energy and power into Tessa than the character likely deserves, and I appreciate that Selma Blair showed up for less than a minute of screen time to get her money and get the hell out of there. However, no one in the film can top Dylan Sprouse’s appearence as Trevor, a level headed character who appears to know that he tragically lives only in the world of After We Collided. Frankly, he had more chemistry with Langford than Tiffin did, and I’d much rather spend an hour and a half with him than with the never ending drama of the central duo.
I was shocked when I saw that this was going to receive a theatrical release, and with the current climate of Covid-19, it sits right now as one of the only films in cinemas. I personally think that some people are being overly cynical with apocalyptic assumptions lately, but this fact does truly make me think that we’re living in the end of days.