The After franchise trudges on with After Ever Happy (now on VOD services like Prime Video), which wins the Awkward Title of the Year award without the use of colons, dashes, dots of ellipsis or the phrase “who stopped living and became mixed-up zombies.” Inventory: This is the fourth film of the series, which began with 2019’s After, followed by 2020’s After We Collided and 2021’s After We Fell, and will be continued sometime in the future the upcoming After Everything; may I suggest subsequent films be titled After We Whatever, After Never or After the Great Dread Nothing That Consumes Everything? If you’re new to this series, first of all, I’m sorry you’re here because it’s kind of a pitiable place to be, and second, it’s based on novels by Anna Todd, which began as Harry Styles fan fiction – just like 50 Shades was Twilight fan fiction, and now we’re all just bumming pretty hard about the general state of things, aren’t we?
The Gist: After Ever Happy picks up right where the last one cliffhanged us: Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) just found out his dad isn’t really his dad by catching his mom schtupping his biological father instead of her fiancee on the eve of her wedding. Eventful day. It only gets more eventful when he revisits his alcoholic ways and glugs down a fifth of brown liquor, then goes to his mom’s house and burns it down. His on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again-on-agian girlfriend Tessa (Josephine Langford) can’t do much to assuage the situation besides get him outta there and car-sex him then fly home to Seattle and find her dad dead in her basement. These poor kids are really going through it, aren’t they?
Tessa’s dad’s passing shakes Hardin from a drunk funk that found him partying hard and doing god knows what with other women. I think they were off-again at that point, but he flies to Seattle to comfort her and try to get on-again, but all she can do is drench pillows with snot and cry-sauce, and the last thing she needs right now is his omnipresent stormcloud of bad-boy dysfunck. They go back and forth, yes yes he says, no no she says, the tug-o-war never ends, and they’re not even having the make-up sex that was the glue holding all the previous movies together. She decides to move to New York with their platonic mutual pal Landon (Chance Perdomo). “I don’t wanna survive, I wanna live,” she says. “I can’t keep doing this,” she says. “I’m sorry I couldn’t fix you,” she says. But hey, Marge Simpson would be damn proud of her effort.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: At least the 365 Days series is more egregiously terrible.
Performance Worth Watching: Replacing Selma Blair in the role of Tessa’s mother, Oscar(tee emm)-winner Mira Sorvino covers her face in grief, but also possibly tries not to laugh, during a funeral scene.
Memorable Dialogue: A few kernels of wonder plucked from
The Room the turdy script:
Tessa, in the middle of a screaming fight with Hardin while furniture is on fire: “DON’T QUOTE HEMINGWAY AT ME!”
Tessa, in the throes of depression: “My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake.”
Landon, as we fade in on a dinner scene: “…and that is why Hardin is afraid of gerbils.” (Everyone laughs)
Tessa comes dangerously close to the infamous sitting-on-an-atomic-bomb line: “We’re just a bomb waiting to explode.”
Sex and Skin: Two paltry sex scenes of the borderline-PG-13 variety where we see not a single diddly and almost no squat.
Our Take: By the third act, after the FIVE MONTHS LATER subtitle, we are to really truly honestly believe that Hardin has cleaned himself up and changed for the better, and we can tell because, during his AA meetings, he’s sharing the stuff he’s always secretly writing in his journals. We can tell Tessa has changed because she now wears a wig with stiff bowl-cut bangs that looks like it was cribbed from the wardrobe of the scarecrow from Wizard of Oz. If you buy any of this, well, then I want to introduce you to a line of revolutionary cleaning products bearing the only brand you can truly trust: Amway.
After Ever Happy – jeezoman, that’s such a tongue-stumbler of a title – is a heedless loiterer in the 7-11 parking lot of cinema, a placeholder that exists to be little more than a movie that exists between the third movie and the fifth movie. It’s 15 minutes of consequential drama stretched to a near-bust at 95 minutes. Death, addiction, recovery and cross-country relocations occur, but they’re meaningless in the context of Tessa and Hardin’s breakup – a breakup that’s destined to be resolved with a tepid sex scene that’s utterly engulfed in LENS FLARE.
I guess the movie’s notable for being even more half-written than its 50 Shades and Twilight spiritual forebears – or should that be less half-written? I dunno, this thing has me all turned around. And uninvolved, uninvested and terminally bored. It’s not even laughably shitty; it’s just suffocatingly dull. It concludes abruptly with less of a cliffhanger, more of a shrug of a wheezy tease that’ll keep only the series’ most fatally obligated fans breathless with suspense for the next one. It’ll be here before you know it, but hey, the same goes for the sun going supernova.
Our Call: SKIP IT. After Ever Happy? More like Ever After CRAPPY, right? Wocka wocka!
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.