Out of all the films to illicit a genuine reaction of being immensely entertained, I would not have pegged After We Collided to deliver. Now, don’t mistake me enjoying myself with this film for being critical praise, because I am not remotely recommending this inexplicable drama. Like its predecessor (After), After We Collided romanticises a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship that screenwriters Anna Todd (who also wrote the source novel) and Mario Celaya want to convince its impressionable audience is a love for the ages.
It’s highly irresponsible to paint two young adults in such a light – supposed desirable hero Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) is a borderline alcoholic for starters – but given that After has tapped into the similar mentality that pushed Twilight and Fifty Shades to fruition, despite their obvious problematic views on what constitutes as consent, it’s not surprising that this fantasy fiction has been lapped up by a specific audience.
But why then did I enjoy myself with such a deplorable film? Well, because it is so irresponsible and inexplicably conceived, there’s a joy in picking it apart, in commentating on its messy temperament. Characters do and say everything you expect (myself and my brave cohort – the only two males in the screening too – unintentionally finished the saccharine dialogue before it was unconvincingly uttered), wild plot points form out of near-thin air (what they do with a character’s father is next-level melodrama), and, given how utterly vanilla the first film was, the fact that this film throws caution to the wind and commits to a multitude of relatively spicy sex scenes (even wilder when you consider the film’s damsel has only recently lost her virginity) and F-bombs (a swear count went into the double digits) has to be oddly admired.
Now among all this teen-heavy schmaltz there is something of a plot, one that could almost be described as the teen production of Fifty Shades, what with a horny bad boy, a susceptible ingenue, a publishing house job, and outside suitors all ticking the expected boxes. Said bad boy is the aforementioned Hardin, a British waif with considerable ink and a penchant for the dramatic – just wait until you see how he “kicks” down a hotel room door in an over-reactive scene – who wants nothing more than to settle down with Tessa (Josephine Langford), his fresh-eyed college conquest, who somehow tolerates his whiny nonsense. The film goes back and forth between them madly in love (and decidedly sexed up) to verging on leaving each other – it’s obvious to practically everyone else, including smitten side-piece Trevor (Dylan Sprouse, who mages to survive the film relatively unscathed, acting wise), that they’re better off apart – and we’re somehow both constantly surprised yet not at the same time when they kiss and make up.
This is not a good movie in any sense of the word – how the bland original managed to get a sequel is beyond me – but even in 2020 we can’t underestimate the power of a devoted fanbase, even if that fanbase is likely to regret their emotional and monetary investment in the years to come. And because After We Collided so exponentially ramped up its material and doubled down on melodrama to the point of genuine hilarity, you can consider me bizarrely invested to see where this series goes, especially when one of the titles is the truly awful, and therefore ironically brilliant, “Ever After Happy”.