If you’ve seen After in cinemas you probably went because you loved the books. Or you saw the trailer and thought “mm, get me some of that please”, for some reason. However, any pro-book After lover will agree, and let’s just say, there were many, many differences between the movie and the book.
Some of the most noticeable changes happened in the first few minutes of the movie, and that was the portrayal of Tessa’s mother and Tessa’s boyfriend. Her mother was nice in the movie, a stark difference from the book, which lends itself to be a giant conflict later in the book because Tessa can’t go home. So, turning the mother into a nice lady was not the best choice. It made the story feel shallow.
Let’s not talk about the fact that Noah looked like a hipster surfer who’d get all the ladies. I don’t know about you, but I pictured Noah as short with slicked back hair, wearing cardigans, and saying things like “goodness”. They made him way too normal in the movie, which seems to be the theme here.
In terms of Tessa’s appearance and character, I thought they did quite well to capture her passive yet snarky personality however downplayed it may have been. Hardin, however… did sort-of look like himself from the book but less bad-boy-home-wrecker and more just-a-normal-attractive-boy-on-the-street. Where were his piercings? Where were the rest of his tattoos?
Now, let’s talk about Landon, Tristian, and Steph. Probably the second biggest change in the adaptation. As for Landon, let’s just say he had a genetic makeover. I didn’t mind this change, however shocked I was. Voltage Pictures and Offspring Entertainment needs its diversity tick, I guess. Landon’s change was the only one I welcomed happily as it actually added to the story with an extra layer of humour. When Landon tells Tessa he and Hardin are related, he goes on to add “well, step brothers” which is somewhat comical. In the books, Landon and Hardin are polar opposites, and by comparing Landon and Tessa together, it highlights how strange Tessa and Hardin are together. However, in the movie, it’s harder to get this point across because Hardin doesn’t look shocking, he just looks normal.
I didn’t really like the fact that Tristian turned into a girl for the movie and now Steph is a lesbian, because it felt forced. It’s one thing to go for LGBTQ+ representation in a movie, it’s another thing entirely to just throw it in at the end as an afterthought. It just felt disrespectful, but hey, they did make a cute couple, so I’m looking past it.
The most interesting change in the movie was the lack of Hardin’s violent nature. Yeah, we saw a couple vases smashed on the ground but not once in the whole movie did he even raise his voice. Which, if we’re being honest here, was the heart and soul of the book. Now, I get it, you can’t romanticise violence in the box office, but part of the allure of Hardin was his violent, troubled nature, then watching him change and grow.
However, it’s interesting to note that in one of the teaser trailers before the movie reached cinemas, they showed that scene where Hardin throws the Wuthering Heights book at the wall. It doesn’t make an appearance in the movie, which means someone had to actually take it out after they had filmed it.
The problem with changing the target demographic is that your audience becomes significantly smaller. Lovers of the book become disgruntled or simply won’t watch it and new audiences that walk into the cinemas will be similarly disappointed. Here’s why:
Without graphic sex-scenes, Hardin’s violence, and adult themes, the movie turns into a bland premise. Good girl Tessa falls in love with a moody teenager and then finds out there’s a bet to make her fall in love with him.
When I finished the book, I was in shock. I began moaning in pain and despair and desperation. I couldn’t believe how it ended because in the books, Tessa doesn’t just find out a handful of college students have been in on this bet, oh boo-hoo. In the book, Hardin shows them the bloody bed linen from him taking Tessa’s virginity, he shows them the used condom, describes her most vulnerable moments with him, then tries to pay people to stay quiet about it. It ends up explaining so much of the events throughout the book. Like why he kept the sheets and condom, why he was always worried she would leave him, and why he didn’t want her wandering the frat house alone. In the book it feels so much more destructive. A huge bombshell. This is why I have trust issues.
In the movie, this feels bland. The characters are bland, the soul is gone, and the shocking conclusion is barely surprising. Or maybe that’s because I’ve already read the book. However, looking at the movie as a standalone, it’s pretty boring. It’s like someone condensed every romance movie trope into one place and then made every character stare at each other wordlessly for the whole movie. It’s cute, but it doesn’t really stand on its own. I’d watch it again if I felt like watching something I don’t want to emotionally commit to. Which is not what you want from your audience.
In the end, the people reading After by Anna Todd weren’t reading because of the cute PG romance.