Tessa (Josephine Langford) has always been the perfect daughter, following the plan that her mother, Carol (Selma Blair), has laid out for her life. Tessa is kind, studious, grounded, responsible and trustworthy. She’s also steadily dating Noah (Dylan Arnold), a boy that she has known since she was five. Carol trusts her daughter, so she ultimately decides it’s OK to leave Tessa with a heavily pierced, tattooed, openly lesbian and partying roommate, Steph (Khadijha Red Thunder), in a college dorm room that smells of marijuana.
Innocent and sensible Tessa appears to be the embodiment of everything that Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) is not. When Tessa and Hardin first meet, it’s anything but love at first sight. In fact Hardin doesn’t believe in love. After Tessa refuses to kiss him as part of a wild party game, Hardin vows to his friends that he’ll make her fall in love with him and when she does, he’ll simply turn off the emotion. Although he doesn’t always treat her very well, Tessa succumbs to her attraction for him and they begin spending more and more time together.
It’s only after Tessa and Hardin make love that Tessa discovers the truth about the origins of their relationship. Hardin then realises that true love does exist, that he has had it with Tessa all along, and that he might have lost it forever.
Family breakdown; college life; toxic relationships; first love; loss of virginity; independence; trust and friendship.
After has some violence. For example:
- During a game at a bonfire, a young man leans in to kiss Tessa. Noah tells the man not to do it, and Hardin jumps up and grabs the man. Hardin and the young man begin rolling on the ground and punching each other.
- After an argument with his father, Hardin smashes things in his kitchen. The scene isn’t shown. Instead, we see the aftermath of broken glass and flowers strewn across the counter tops and floor.
After has some sexual references. For example:
- Tessa is asked about the craziest place she has ever had sex. She declines to answer, and a girl mocks her for being a virgin.
- As Hardin’s hands explore Tess’s chest and she breathes heavily, he asks if she has ever been touched before.
- Oral sex is suggested but not shown.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
After shows some use of substances. For example:
- There are many party scenes that show people drinking, smoking and vaping.
- Tessa is pressured to drink even though she says she doesn’t want to. Eventually she gives in and drinks straight from a large bottle that looks like it might contain vodka.
- Tessa’s mother says that Tessa’s dorm room ‘reeks of weed’.
- Hardin claims not to drink, but he gets drunk one night in a fit of jealousy.
Nudity and sexual activity
After has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Steph and her female friend wear skimpy, tight tops, high-cut shorts with netted stockings, and very revealing outfits. They kiss each other at parties. In one scene, they fall onto a bed, remove their shirts, and kiss passionately while lying on top of each other. They leave on their bras and shorts.
- Hardin strips down to his underwear to go swimming with Tessa. She joins him wearing his shirt over her bra and underpants. They circle each other in the water, slowly building up to their first kiss. When they get out of the water, his hand slowly slides down her chest and over her breast. He lifts up her shirt and exposes her midriff. He begins to slide his fingers into her underwear and then stops.
- In a dream Hardin puts his hands on Tessa’s chest again.
- Hardin and Tessa kiss passionately in his bed. He takes off his shirt and lies on top of her. He slowly undoes her jeans, pulls her pants off, and kisses her bare legs. They lie together in their underwear.
- There are several scenes where Hardin and Tessa kiss passionately. In one such scene Hardin undoes his zipper and slowly moves down between Tessa’s legs.
- After a party Tessa tells Hardin that she wants him. She unzips her dress and lets it fall to the floor, exposing her bare back. They fall onto the bed, both apparently naked, although nothing explicit is shown. Hardin holds up a condom and asks Tessa if she’s sure. She says that she is. Hardin moves rhythmically and the camera is largely focussed on Tessa’s face while they make love. When she expresses pain, he asks if she wants him to stop but she says, ‘No. Just go slow’.
Several classic books are mentioned, shown or discussed in After. They include Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice and The Great Gatsby.
There is some coarse language in After.
Ideas to discuss with your children
After is a romantic drama based on the novel series by Anna Todd. The main actors give heartfelt performances, and the movie will probably appeal to teenage girls.
These are the main messages from After:
- True love does exist.
- You should be careful whom you trust.
- You should be allowed to find yourself and make your own mistakes.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include compassion, responsibility, independence and forgiveness.
After could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:
- allowing yourself to be treated poorly in a relationship
- cheating on a boyfriend or girlfriend
- drinking or taking drugs because of peer pressure
- having sexual relationships before you really know your partner.