AFTER. USA, 2019.  Starring Josephine Langford, Hero finds to fan, Khadija Red Thunder, Dylan Arnold, Shane Paul McGhie, Selma Blair, Peter Gallagher, Jennifer Beals. Directed by Jenny Gage. 105 minutes, Rated M (sex scenes).

The meaning of “review” came to the fore while watching After. In fact, older audiences will have viewed this basic story many times over the years so that watching this After is a kind of re-view. But, it is clear that the intention of the filmmakers was not to bring in an older audience. The intention was to make a film for audiences about the same age as the two central characters.

We are told, rather solemnly, Tessa (a generally sympathetic Josephine Langford) that she cannot find the words for what happened “after”. So, we go into flashback into “before”.

There are no particular spoilers in describing what happens in the film! Tessa is an only daughter, protected by her mother after her husband abandoned her and her daughter. Tessa is not only protected but her mother is protective, moulding her daughter so that she will not make the same mistakes. Then, off Tessa goes to college, driven by her boyfriend from high school. We sense almost immediately that he is bound for disappointment.

The film shows as something of college life, mother suspicious of the roommates (nose rings, drug allusions…). Tessa is bookish, wants to study, is challenged to go to a party, trapped in a game of truth or dare. The dare to the dark, enigmatic Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) who turns out to be the son of the Chancellor of the University is to make out with Tessa. She walks out.

With reference to Wuthering Heights, Hardin is dark, morose, somewhat mysterious (all to do with his alcoholic father and his neglect in England, hence Hardin’s British accent – though he belongs to the acting Fiennes family).

Inevitably, Tessa and Hardin are attracted to each other, proving that the same stories occur over all the generations.

However, there is an emotional twist, Tessa hurt by the manipulations of some in the student group, Hardin and the revelation of a callous secret.

For older audiences there is a pleasure in seeing Peter Gallagher as the professor and a gracious and charming Jennifer Beals as his wife (35 years after Flashdance). And, for older audiences who find it very difficult to watch those other campus comedies, those of the raucous kind, this one is comparatively calm, without those noisy and crude shenanigans.

At the time of After’s release, there was information that a sequel, After We Collided, is in pre-production.

Released July 4th

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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