Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Castille Landon
Stars: Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, Josephine Langon, Chance Perdomo, Louise Latham, Mira Sorvino, Stephen Moyer.
This melodramatic teen romance is the fourth film based on the series of Harry Styles inspired fan fiction YA novels written by New York Times bestselling author Anna Todd, which deals with the tumultuous on and off again romance between bad boy Hardin Scott and Tessa Young, who first met in college. The first film was released in 2019, with subsequent entries in the series following every year since and has built up a devoted following. But as with other such fan fiction like the Fifty Shades Of Grey series, it has become increasingly more tedious and lacking in energy or anything interesting to say.
This one takes up the story straight after the end of the third film After We Fell; however, it doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen the earlier films because, during the opening credit titles, we get a quick rehash of the narrative to bring us up to speed. Hardin (played again by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin) has just learned the devastating truth that Christian (Stephen Moyer) is actually his biological father and this throws him into a self-destructive spin and sends him into a spiral of alcoholism and arson. He burns down his childhood home and disappears deeper into a bottle.
Tessa (played again by Australian born actress Josephine Langdon) tries to help him but when he pushes her away. She flies back to Seattle, but on arrival she has to cope with the sudden death of her father. Hardin struggles to deal with his anger and his addictions. But, anxious to reconnect with her, Hardin flies to Seattle and joins an AA meeting to try and deal with his problem. He also writes a novel detailing his troubled relationship with Tessa, much to her consternation, and the book’s success throws another spanner into their relationship.
The film has been directed by Castille Landon, who also directed After We Fell, which gives this entry into the series a consistent look and feel, but there is something perfunctory about her handling of the material. And there is a fifth film in the series to follow next year. However, the repetitive nature of the material quickly wears thin. The film has been given a glossy surface by cinematographers Rob Givens and Joshua Reis (After We Fell, etc), who give the sex scenes a soft focus and dreamy quality. The film was shot in Sofia which nicely doubles for the London, Seattle and New York locations.
Fiennes-Tiffin and Langdon are the mainstays of the series and they do establish a combustible chemistry, but their on again/off again relationship hardly advances here. Fiennes-Tiffin has a suitably moody presence that suits his character, who swears like a trooper and has poor impulse control. Langdon brings out a vulnerability with her portrayal, but her Tessa is rather bland this time and seems to have given up her aspirations to work in the publishing industry to work in hospitality. Chance Perdomo reprises his role as Tessa’s best friend Landon, but many of the other peripheral characters, such as Hardin’s mother and Tessa’s mother, have been recast.
After Ever Happy (a clever play on the usual happily ever after trope of teen romances) is high gloss soap opera. But there is obviously an audience for the After series who will eagerly lap it up and come back for more of the same. Apparently, episode five was shot back-to-back with this one and is already in the can.