The fourth installment in the After franchise, After Ever Happy picks up where After We Fell ended.
The world’s most boring couple, Tessa Young (Josephine Langford) and Hardin Scott (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), are in London to attend Hardin’s mother’s latest wedding. Unfortunately, Christian Vance (Stephen Moyer) takes this opportunity to reveal that he is actually Hardin’s father which leads to Hardin storming off and grabbing a bottle of whiskey. If you’ve seen the previous three After films, then you know that’s a big problem because Hardin is a recovering alcoholic who turns into an asshole when he’s drunk. Of course, Hardin’s usually an asshole when he’s sober as well.
Because Tessa really doesn’t have any life beyond chasing after Harin and trying to keep him from being self-destructive, Tessa chases after him and tries to keep him from doing anything self-destructive. Unfortunately, since Harden’s already drunk, he decides that he might as well burn down his mother’s house and that’s exactly what Hardin does. In most movies, this would be treated as Hardin going off the deep end and as evidence that Tessa should get a thousand miles away from him. In the After films, every stupid, impulsive, and destructive thing that Hardin does is just an excuse for Tessa to comfort him by having soft-focus sex in a car. In the world of the After films, every toxic relationship is a Dior commercial.
Anyway, After Ever Happy pretty much follows the exact same pattern as the previous three films. After Tessa’s father dies, she moves to New York in order to heal and Hardin loses it. Hardin follows her to New York. Tessa takes him back. Hardin explodes over some trivial issue. Tessa forgives him. Tessa tries to do something for herself. Hardin gets mad. Tessa forgives him. Hardin tries to be a better person, which in this case means that he gives his scarf to an old homeless man whom Tessa has been giving food. (Tessa explains that giving the homeless man food makes her feel better about losing her dad, which is another way of saying that she’s only helping him to make herself feel good. If her Dad was still alive, the homeless man would probably end up freezing to death while Tessa and Hardin debated whether Fitzgerland was a better writer than Hemingway. Maybe one of those schmucks could try to help the old homeless man find shelter or something. That scarf’s only going to do so much.) Hardin turns his journals into a novel, which is somehow published. Tessa is angered that Hardin wrote about her without asking her permission and she leaves him. Hardin’s book is acclaimed, despite the fact that the excerpt we hear sound terrible. Hardin becomes an amateur boxer or something. I’m not really sure what was up with that scene. “To be continued….,” the title card announces, so maybe the next movie will feature more action in the ring.
A few questions sprang to mind as I watched After Ever Happy:
Why, after four movies, does Hardin still only have one facial expression?
See? Just one.
What was going on with Tessa’s hair during the second half of the movie?
Seriously, Tessa’s hair was one of the few things that she had going for her and this movie took that away from her.
Finally, how is it that, after four films, the lead performers still have next to zero romantic chemistry? You would think that, after three years of playing these people, Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Josephine Langford would at least have a little bit of a spark to their interactions but instead, they still come across as being friendly acquaintances as opposed to lovers. There’s nothing about their performances that suggest that they know each other in a way that only two people who are deeply in love could know each other. There’s none of the little details that one immediately spots between people who have shared trauma and found love. Instead, every emotion and thought is on the surface. There’s no depth to the relationship. Hardin is toxic and whiney. Tessa is the doormat that other doormats walk over.
Typically, with a film like this, critics will say that the cast does their best with the material they’ve been given but, in this case, everyone’s just as lousy as the material. Say what you will about the 50 Shades Films, at least Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson appeared to be having fun. The cast of After Ever Happy, from the stars on down, just seem to be hoping that it will soon all be over with.