After We Collided, the sequel to the massively successful After, has very little to work with, and it shows

After We Collided (M, 105 minutes)

2 stars

You think because I'm a movie star I don't have feelings," Goldie Hawn's character says in The First Wives Club. "Well you're wrong. I'm an actress. I've got all of them!"

Josephine Langford, left and Hero Fiennes Tiffin in After We Collided (2020). Picture: Roadshow

Josephine Langford, left and Hero Fiennes Tiffin in After We Collided (2020). Picture: Roadshow

There are so many feelings in After We Collided, sequel to the very successful After from 2019, that it is hard to know what to make of them.

I remember having feelings. Being in your early 20s and just feeling everything so bloody hard. Absolutely needing to have conversations with people, to help friends sort through their issues, to need to be comforted because somebody broke your heart. How exhausting. Thank God for comfortable middle age and giving up.

So I look at a film like After We Collided with a bemused but indifferent feeling of fond distance.

Having not seen the first film in the franchise, I have to say this one absolutely assumes its viewers are coming back for a second helping of a familiar dish. Fortunately, there isn't much backstory in its thin premise to catch up on.

As this film opens, our heroine Tessa (Josephine Langford) is putting all of her energy into an internship at the publishing empire of Kim (Candice King) and Christian Vance (Charlie Weber), because she's trying not to think of how badly her heart was recently broken by cashed-up frat-boy slacker Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin).

Josephine Langford, left and Hero Fiennes Tiffin in After We Collided (2020). Picture: Roadshow

Josephine Langford, left and Hero Fiennes Tiffin in After We Collided (2020). Picture: Roadshow

The publishing company has her and colleague Trevor (Dylan Sprouse) taking some money people out to a nightclub where Tessa has a few too many and drunk-calls Hardin, who comes to rescue her from herself.

They make love, and next thing you know, their on-again off-again romance is back on. It is only just pretend-back-on when Hardin's mum (Louise Lombard) turns up and Tessa plays along with a game of happy couples to not disappoint the friendly mum.

The plot is light and feels thin and episodic rather than deep and structured.

It's back on for realsies after they enjoy the play-acting, but then a series of obstacles stand in the way of the couple's possible happiness, including an invitation to dinner at the home of Hardin's dad (Rob Estes), a job offer in another city for Tessa, and a misguided revisit to the frat house location of the first film where Hardin apparently only started dating Tessa on a bet.

The screenplay is by Anna Todd working with Mario Celaya, from Todd's series of novels. There's a fascinating story behind Todd and her success. Much like the Fifty Shades books, which started life as Twilight fan fiction, Todd's After series began their life as One Direction fan fiction, with her earlier versions based on the romantic life of a fictionalised version of Harry Styles. Todd published her work on the storytelling platform Wattpad and amassed a ridonculous 400-plus-million readers for her work. Some savvy film industry types could smell money and an offer was made.

If I were Harry Styles, I wouldn't be too flattered with having Hardin Scott based after me. Twice in this film he has sex with a girl who's is too drunk to be making rational decisions, which is literally criminal.

The plot is light and feels thin and episodic rather than deep and structured, going from set-up for a fight to set-up to have sex. And sex they do have. This is equal opportunity gratuitous sex-approximation, where both Fiennes Tiffin and Langford are well lit, and the pace of the film briefly amps up. But it is also rated M and targeted at teens, so much action is implied and pre-soft-core.

As the tattooed Hardin, Hero Fiennes Tiffin is good to look at and given some good moments to show off the family shops - his uncles are Ralph and Joseph Fiennes. It is a thin role but one that will build him a legion of followers who will hopefully follow him to better material later in his career.

Dylan Sprouse, of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody fame, has an absolutely thankless role as Tessa's possibly-love-interest work friend. If Hardin is written thin, then Trevor-from-work wouldn't be able to stand sideways or he would disappear right off the screen. But his presence is astute casting, bringing his own army of fans to cinema seats.

Aussie actress Josephine Langford fares much better in her role as Tessa. Like Goldie Hawn, she gets the chance to show ALL the emotions, and despite the frustration in wanting to see more reasoning behind Tessa's often irrational behaviours, they are well performed.

But we've all been 20-something and highly irrational, so it's easy to forgive such things and appreciate that for a portion of the film-going audience, this is the kind of stuff that rocks their socks.

This story Light, thin and lacking substance first appeared on The Canberra Times.