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After We Fell (2021)::rating::0.5::rating::0.5

After three horrifying After movies, I’ll go ahead and say it: Nothing about any of this saga is romantic. If anything, these ugly, miserable, pedantic stories represent an all-out assault on the very idea of romance. In After We Fell, the lead characters spend 99 minutes screaming, sobbing, and aggressively trying to derail each other’s hopes and dreams. These histrionics are occasionally interrupted by sweaty interludes of passionless sex and dreary snippets of indie rock on the soundtrack. You won’t find a glimmer of warmth in After We Fall, nor a molecule of actual substance. In the end, this film only makes a tidy example of everything love isn’t.

Ordinarily, this is the point where I warn that a few mild spoilers might follow. Instead, I’ll just assume you’ve seen the other two movies and offer my sincerest condolences. Rest assured, I’ve struck that same iceberg, and all we can do is pick up our violins and play until we meet the icy deep. As for everyone else, if you can’t tell from my flowery metaphors: Turn back now. These movies represent sizable chunks of your time, money, and soul that are never coming back. There’s just not enough room on this floating debris for you, me, and Leo. Save yourselves, for God’s sake!!!

Anyway, um…a few mild spoilers might follow. After We Fell kicks off right after the previous movie. Tessa (Josephine Lanford) grapples with whether or not to accept her dream job and move to Seattle. Meanwhile, Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), her spoiled, drunken, belligerent douchebag of a boyfriend, wants her to turn down the offer so they can stay where they are and fight for hours at a time.

That’s really all the plot you need: Tessa and Hardin form the movie’s rotten emotional core, while all the other characters are just unfortunate souls cursed to spoil in the same barrel. As Tessa struggles with her new life, she settles in with her boss (Stephen Moyer) and his wife (Arielle Kebbel), whose perfect life means they must harbor some deep dark secrets. Also along for the ride is Landon (Chance Perdomo), Tessa’s BFF. His character is so vibrant and affable, he honestly deserves better friends in a better movie. On a similar note, Tessa’s grimy deadbeat dad (Atanas Srebrev) seems pasted in from a completely different (and equally lousy) screenplay. Don’t bother looking for redeemable characters anywhere in this stinky, dour, mess of a movie–you won’t find any.

None of that is the fault of the actors, writer, or director. (Although none of them do much to help, either.) No, I suspect most of the fault here lies in Anna Todd’s source material. Throughout these movies, I detect a terrible, gnarled view of life and love that infects the entire storyline with its aggressive malignancy: Hardin is a petulant, toxic bully, destined to spend his life swirling around the drain. For all her intelligence and ability, the author really wants to send Tessa spiraling into the same terrible vortex. There’s one more movie in this godforsaken series, and I suspect the “happy” ending will be for Hardin and Tessa to get locked in a never-ending tailspin of yelling, insults, and pure, concentrated sadness.

That sadness certainly imprinted onto me. As the final credits rolled, I felt an unusual melancholy. Most terrible movies send me out giggling, but this one was just exhausting. I couldn’t spend one more minute watching unlikable characters say and do unforgivable things to each other. Whatever it claims to be, nothing in After We Fell is about love. If anything, this is a rudimentary examination of life between two soulless people who will never even know what love is.

99 min. R. VoD.

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