I read Anna Todd's "After" about a month ago, half out of curiosity and half out of pure boredom. What I found was a mess of an unedited novel that detailed the cycle of an absolutely toxic and emotionally abusive relationship. I walked into the film with those exact expectations, and I walked out incredibly surprised.
It was actually good. Of course, it's not the best romantic comedy I've ever seen. Some of the cringy dialogue was left intact, and it was incredibly cliche. But I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would (and I would watch it again). In the film, we follow Tessa Young, a freshman in college navigating new experiences and a new relationship with English bad boy Hardin Scott. In the novel, Hardin and Tessa go through a cycle of poor communication, fighting, and making up with sex over and over again throughout the almost 600-page book. All of that nonsense was completely cut out of the film, and for the better. Hardin and Tessa's relationship actually was adorable, filled with cute montages that melted my heart. There's a scene where they're in the bathtub together and Hardin is tracing words against Tessa's back, asking her to guess what he's writing. She can't of course, and we see him carefully writing "I love you" across her back. There's an undeniable tenderness in his eyes, a moment of a confession he can't bear to admit to her. He never tells her what he wrote, which makes the moment so much more personal.
It's moments like these that make the film really good and there's none of that in the book. They can't stop fighting with one another to actually do anything normal healthy couples do. You almost start to wonder after a while why Tessa even stays with Hardin at all (oh, that's right, because he emotionally guilts her into staying every single time). But in the film, you understand why she falls for him in the first place: he's hot, exciting, British, and a broken boy trying to work through his trauma (also he reads a lot of classic literature, which definitely earns him points in my book).
I was curious as to what the fans of the novel thought of the film: and was surprised to see that most of them hate it. They hate it mostly because it wasn't faithful to the book, made Hardin a much nicer guy, and didn't show the trials and tribulations of their horrifically toxic relationship. While I understand fans of anything hate to see change, every change I saw honestly made the story better. The characters were more believable, and their actions weren't wildly outlandish.
Everything I liked about the film was changed from the book. Perhaps it was the lens of a female director, or sensible writers not willing to push this problematic behavior to the masses in 2019. Whatever it was, it was honestly the film's saving grace. "After" knew what kind of film it was and turned the 2014 novel into a better version of itself. I walked out of the theater feeling the same way I used to when I would stay up all night reading stories on Wattpad. It gave me everything I wanted and more.
Yes, it's a bit over the top and there are some cringy scenes. But "After" far exceeded my expectations on all fronts. I genuinely enjoyed it, and if you're in the mood for a little fun and romance, I highly recommend it.