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How Watching the “After” Films has Become a Cringey Tradition

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kenyon chapter.

As painful as it may be for my ego, it’s time to come clean: I’m an After movie sympathizer. I know, I know…but it’s been a long journey. I was, as truly shocking as this may sound, an avid Wattpad reader in my youth. And, I mean, the occasional visit back to the app as a college student isn’t embarrassing, right? There’s a time to scrutinize that later…or never. Anyway! You’re now reading the words of a Wattpad reader who was one of the hundreds of millions who read the fanfiction “After.” Yes, the book series originated on Wattpad by “imaginator1D,” also known as Anna Todd. If you can’t guess by Todd’s Wattpad username, After was originally a Harry Styles fanfic. Sign me up, am I right? When the story got a publishing deal, the characters went through name changes to avoid copyright infringement, so “Harry Styles” turned into “Hardin Scott,” and so forth. 

As wonderfully amusing as those fanfictions are, I’m here to address the movies, not the books. The first After movie was released in 2019, starring Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin. You may be familiar with the Langford name, as Josephine’s sister, Katherine, starred as Hannah Baker in the popular book-turned-Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Fiennes Tiffin also has famous familial connections; many people may recognize his uncle Ralph Fiennes in numerous roles such as Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies.

The After movie, I’ll admit, is unironically good. I’m a sucker for a good sappy teenage romance, and it didn’t hurt that I had a massive crush on Hero Fiennes Tiffin. A bad boy with a British accent? Say less. Unfortunately, the second movie was where the quality went downhill. After We Collided, the sequel, was released in September of 2020. It’s difficult to explain the cringiness of the film for those who haven’t had the pleasure of watching it, but to say it lightly, the characters are off their rockers. Suddenly Tessa (Langford) is the epitome of “I’m not like other girls,” and Hardin (Fiennes Tiffin) is actually psychotic. The only thing that saves the entire movie from being a complete disaster is Dylan Sprouse’s role as Trevor. I’m not saying he is an inherently great actor in the film, but a familiar face that acts as Hardin’s antagonist definitely brings joy to the viewing experience. It is safe to say that my obsession with Hardin had pretty much withered away and left me seriously questioning my taste.

I had made it a tradition to watch the first two movies with some of my best friends from my hometown, so shoutout to Caeden and Nora. But the third installment was released upon my coming to college, in September of 2021. This movie, named After We Fell, sat in my to-watch list for six months before I finally watched it in March of 2022. My roommate, Gillian, and I sat down in our (wonderfully-decorated and super cool) dorm room to ironically experience what we knew was going to be a trainwreck. Were we wrong? Absolutely not. Not only were almost all of the supporting characters recast in this film (which just feels like lazy planning), but also Sprouse was no longer sporting a role. To make matters worse, Hardin became the literal definition of “emo,” Did this prompt Gillian and I to pause the movie halfway through, put an alarming amount of eyeliner on, and make a slightly-concerning TikTok to Machine Gun Kelly’s song “emo girl?” No comment.

And if you’re worried about this movie franchise being over, which I’m sure has just been eating everyone up, fret no longer. The fourth (*sigh*) film, After Ever Happy, was just released last month. First of all, can we discuss the title of this film? I know that it’s the title of Todd’s book, but seriously?! I can’t even read it without getting confused. Do I know that this movie is going to be bad? Yes. You may be wondering why I still plan to watch the movie — a question I ask myself quite frequently. But watching these movies is a tradition at this point, and knowing that this one will undoubtedly be horrible is an oddly comforting realization. Not to mention, dramas that are unintentional comedies are the best ones. Because let’s be honest: the awkward sex scenes in the new movies are simultaneously hilarious yet cringey to watch. As much as I mourn the cinematic masterpiece that was the first After movie, I look forward to continuing the ironic viewings for the rest of the franchise. 

A sophomore at Kenyon College pursuing an English major, Creative Writing emphasis, and French minor, Sadie is originally from Yarmouth, Maine. In her free time she loves to write, crochet, watch crime documentaries and read alarmingly cliché romance novels.