Ever since After premiered, we haven't been able to stop talking about it. The romantic drama stars Josephine Langford (the younger sister of 13 Reasons Why actress Katherine Langford) and British hottie Hero Fiennes-Tiffin (you may remember him as the young Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — same attitude, new tattoos). Based on Anna Todd's novel, which stemmed from Harry Styles fan fiction, this Netflix film eerily reminded us of another movie that came out just over 10 years ago . . . Twilight. You may be thinking, one is a supernatural drama involving vampires and werewolves, and the other is a regular ol' college romance. But the two movies have a scary amount in common, from their serene nature montages to their near-identical leading characters.
Both flicks start us off with the two leading ladies moving to new places (weirdly enough, both in the state of Washington). While Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves to the cold and rainy town of Forks to live with her father Charlie (Billy Burke), Tessa relocates to Seattle (only a three-hour drive away from Forks) to start her freshman year of college at Washington State University.
At the start of both movies, Bella and Tessa both feel like outsiders and struggle to fit in at their new schools. Bella and Tessa have a lot in common; they are both beautiful girls-next-door, nerds at heart, with limited sexual experience (even their names sound similar). Although Bella is given a ton of attention (especially male attention) and is regarded as the fascinating new girl by her classmates, she doesn't have much in common with her girlie pals, who are boy-crazy and only want to talk about prom. Meanwhile, Tessa struggles to fit in with her vaping, party-animal roommate, Steph (Khadijha Red Thunder) and her edgy friends, as she would much rather curl up in bed with a good book than get drunk at a party. Everything seems a little mundane in the social department for the two girls . . . until they meet their love interests.
Infatuation, Love, and Sexual Awakenings
Twilight and After take drastic turns when their leading ladies meet their future beaus, Hardin and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Both movies are plastic molds of turbulent romances between innocent, sheltered virgins, and mysterious bad boys. A feeling of familiarity begins to creep up on you within the first 20 minutes of both movies. You might find yourself wondering, have I seen this before? And the answer is yes. About a thousand times.
Like Twilight, After attempts to portray the overpowering, all-consuming, feeling of first love. And yet, the love between Hardin and Tessa, just like Edward and Bella, seems to be more about the physical attraction between good-looking people than a deeper emotional connection.
Similarly to Bella and Edward, Tessa and Hardin find common ground in feeling like outsiders. While the relationship between Edward and Bella feels slightly more genuine and convincing, Hardin and Tessa's romance is merely a string of cute dates: picture-perfect aquarium excursions, idyllic lake swims, and forced romantic dialogue in between. The same way that Edward and Bella share a love of books and academia, the only common interest that Tessa and Hardin have is their passion for classic literature, which is a feeble half-baked thread that runs throughout the film. The frequent mentioning of Pride and Prejudice shows a contrived attempt to compare Tessa and Hardin's love story to this renowned classic, when they are not even remotely in the same league.
The Dark and Mysterious Beaus
Hardin and Edward are not your average boys next door. Dark and mysterious, both leading males stand out from the crowd. With his gelled hair, leather jacket, and tattoos, Hardin might as well have "bad boy" written across his forehead (in capital letters). While he successfully pulls off the pout and the scowl, Hardin's character does not quite live up to brooding and tortured mystery man that is Edward Cullen. Edward has a softer and more sensitive side (he listens to classical music and plays the piano, need I say more?).
Another item to add to the list of things Bella and Tessa have in common: they both have terrible taste in men. Edward is a blood-sucking predator who resists the urge to eat Bella alive when they first meet, and yet, this doesn't seem to phase Bella in the slightest. When a boy tells you: "I've never wanted a human's blood so much," the appropriate response would be to run and hide, not pursue an intimate relationship with him. Although he might not be as lethal, sourpuss Hardin brings little to the table. His lack of redeemable traits reaches an all-time high when a video is revealed of him saying that he started dating Tessa because of a dare. Oops.
Neither Tessa nor Bella have as much agency as one would expect from a female lead. Bella's melodramatic insistence that she can't survive without Edward is ridiculous, but also realistically reflects the feelings of teenagers falling in love for the first time. Crafting Tessa as a submissive character in this day and age, during the age of female empowerment, feels a little more inexcusable. Tessa is constantly at Hardin's beck and call, no matter what PG-13 trouble he manages to involve her in.
The Love Triangle
Bella and Tessa both only have eyes for one man, which is made even more obvious by the love triangles set up in both Twilight and After. In Twilight, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) plays the warm and friendly best friend, and the other supernatural creature vying for Bella's affection. In After, Hardin's competition is Tessa's boyfriend Noah Porter (Dylan Arnold). We know shortly after Noah's introduction that this wholesome sweetheart and his "night night" texts won't be in the story for much longer.
Although Jacob and Noah are the better (and far less harmful) romantic choices for the two ladies, both cuties are ultimately tossed aside, but not before Tessa and Bella have the chance to treat them like absolute rubbish first. When Noah surprises Tessa with a weekend visit, she thanks him by sneaking off in the middle of the night and losing her virginity to Hardin (ouch). Bella doesn't treat Jacob much better, and the pair share their first kiss immediately after Bella accepts a marriage proposal from Edward. Talk about bad timing.
The Protective Single Parent
Bella and Tessa are both children of divorced parents, and this storyline plays a role in both films. While Tessa's father left her and her Mom at a young age, Bella's parents are also divorced. Tessa's mother and Bella's father are both extremely protective over their only daughters and are not the most approving of their dark and broody boyfriends (and for good reason). In both cases, this results in an ugly fight between child and parent. But both arguments are eventually resolved because, hey, at the end of the day, our parents just want what's best for us, and both Bella and Tessa recognise that too.