In the first film, simply titled After (which I never saw), a young woman named Tessa (Josephine Langford) is in her first semester of college, sweet, shy, bookish, devoted to her high school sweetheart back home. But then she meets the dark and brooding Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), whose mysterious magnetism is undeniable. Good girl meets rebel, it’s an age old story that every generation needs to tell for itself. But Hardin is hiding another tired trope: he’s made a bet that he can bed her. Their whole rocky relationship is predicated on a lie, and it’s hard to say which is worse, that Tessa loses her virginity to a bet, or that Hardin has actually fallen in love with her and is now going to lose his first love to a stupid bet.
[Not that I actually believe in this garbage – it’s super toxic and should only result in immediate breakup and block, but in the world of movies, this shit passes as romance and is an idiotically common occurrence.]
Cut to part two: After We Collided.
Tessa is heartbroken and single, but things are looking up as she starts a new internship where her hunky/nerdy (nunky? herdy?) colleague Trevor (Dylan Sprouse) is getting friendly. But when they get drunk at a club (for work!), Tessa goes back to her hotel room and calls Hardin, who you can be sure zips right over, only to find Trevor in a (misleading) state of undress! Hardin attempts to do the right thing and resist Tessa’s advances since she’s crazy drunk, but, you know, consent plays second fiddle to desire, and we already know he’s the kind of guy who takes a woman’s virginity over a bet, so he’s not a super ethical dude, despite the film trying to convince us otherwise. The next morning Tessa is predictably upset, and the two continue to be on and/off again for most of the movie. Even when he’s not taking disgusting bets, he’s got anger issues and daddy issues and jealousy issues, plus those nasty flashbacks and nightmares and an overall simmering rage that young women mistake for sexy but is actually a major red flag.
Two very big differences between the first and second movies. First, it lost its female director and would up with Roger Kumble, who directed my generation’s movie about a guy who makes a bet to take a young woman’s virginity and then falls in love with her – it was called Cruel Intentions, starring Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe…and Selma Blair, who depressingly plays Tessa’s uptight mom in this movie. Oh how times have changed. Second, this movie is much more heavy on the sex, and gets an R rating rather than PG-13. It’s the light version of 50 Shades, for young people who have plenty of passion but absolutely no technique.
I did not care for this movie but I suppose if you were a fan of the first you might be glad to see these two fighting like cats and dogs and fucking like rabbits. It’s a whole petting zoo of toxic masculinity and if that’s how you define romance, then by all means, have at it – but be safe.