After: Everything You Need to Know About the Fan-Fic Turned Film

The release of the After film has sparked conversation about the 2014 novel that gained upwards of 1 billion reads online as One Direction fan-fiction, but it’s so much more than the flawed headlines make it out to be. After is an addictive five-part series that gives readers an experience unlike any other.


    When rumors of After becoming a feature-length film arose on the internet, my attitude was more “I’ll believe it when I see it” than “I can’t wait to see this adapted to screen”. But come release day, I headed to the theatre with the friend who introduced me to the series and wondered how many other movie-goers were fans of the books like us. Could there really be that many other After readers and I just haven’t had anyone else to discuss it with? I hadn’t followed the filming process at all, and going into it only knowing what the lead actors looked like made for minimal expectations. Still, it felt special, like this movie was made just for me and the other members of an obscure book club.


    It didn’t take long for me to notice and appreciate how well the movie echoed the tone and passion of the novel. After explores the unpredictable relationship between Tessa Young and Hardin Scott, an unlikely pair who quickly fall for each other after meeting in college. And while the story does have fan-fiction roots, it’s actually pretty detached from that now. As lead actress Josephine Langford has explained many times, the film has nothing to do with Harry Styles and the only connection the book has to the band is in the first letter of character’s names.


    Langford’s character, Tessa, is incredibly relatable and I think a lot of girls, including myself, can see parts of themselves in her. Her genuine and thoughtful qualities are brought out in the film without any unnecessary exaggeration, keeping her character truthful and someone an audience wants to root for. As for Hardin Scott, the rebellious yet intriguing young man who steals her heart, the translation to big screen made his character, played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, more likable – and hearing the lines in an English accent doesn’t hurt either. Accurately portraying beloved characters like Tessa and Hardin was no easy job, but both actors appeared dedicated to getting it right for the fans, which is something I appreciated and admired.


    When turning a literary phenomenon like the After series into a film, it would have been easy to make it into something corny and superficial, but I was delighted to see that the movie was just as deliciously stimulating as the books. The soundtrack definitely helped carry those feelings across and elevated the mood throughout. The Fray plays distantly as Tessa and Hardin giggle in a diner, a sultry cover of Avril Lavigne's “Complicated” is heard after they have a fight, and when they share a slow dance at a wedding reception, James Bay’s “Us” fills the air.


    All in all, After was better than I had anticipated because it was everything fans could’ve hoped for, and the trailers did not do justice for the full-length rendition of Tessa and Hardin’s first book. As someone who spent months picturing these characters in my head, I loved that the film wasn’t just a visual representation of the story, but was everything that's so captivating about the series. All the right choices were made about what to keep in the film, what to leave out, and what to tweak to make it tasteful and relevant to 2019. At the same time, I didn't feel like it was rushing to include all the plot details. Instead, there were little things here and there for dedicated fans to pick up on, including a quick cameo from the author Anna Todd and an infinity symbol necklace worn by Tessa that resembles the same logo that appears on all the books’ covers and spines.


    The After series consists of After, After We Collided, After We Fell, After Ever Happy, and Before, alloting readers plenty of material to devour and lose themselves in. Reading through all five is like finishing a tv series and wishing you could experience watching it for the first time all over again. As we left the theatre that night, we stopped in a bookstore on the way home and found ourselves unable to leave the young adult section, our minds still lingering in the world of Tessa and Hardin and feeling inspired to dive into more stories.