Okay, so my Mom has a book club and a website for it and because she was away to work I got to see the early preview of the movie since she couldn’t and she got the book as well, which isn’t for her age bracket so she gave it to me. It looked to me from the base of the cover (the same pose as in the official trailer thumbnail) like a step away from a Harlequin Romance Novel. Which, I was uncertain of and had other things to read so I didn’t. And I haven’t, but after seeing this movie I might.
Tessa Young is going to college, her mother is worried about what will happen when she sees her roommate. Tessa meets Hardin Scott, the brooding and a little jerkass British boy with a dark past. The two of them become closer and fall in love, but real life and complications of the heart make things difficult.
Based on the 2014 fanfic by Anna Todd in Wattpad about Harry Styles and Zayn Malik falling in love in college. The story got picked up by a publishing company since it had earned 5 million readers on the site and the books were taken for publishing. Changing some names up as well as genders in the book (one of four) the series became a hit. I have not read the fanfic, because I was never obsessed with One Direction and the book itself is still unread.
Now to the movie! This was actually a really surprising movie. It subverted by expectations when I thought it was going to go the cliché route that I have seen too much on CW TV-shows or Netflix. There are the literary references, but they make sense in context and no one is hopefully (crosses fingers) thinking that Wuthering Heights is some great romantic novel. It’s not! I’ve not read it and even I know that the romance between Cathy and Heathcliff is toxic as hell! Also, people act like real people for once, with changing options and no one is held for judgement and their motivations (that aren’t spelled out, but then again that is what acting and cinematic language is for) are completely understandable. People are just different, it’s as simple as that. Though sometimes I had to question some of the decisions, but knowing now that it’s based on a fanfic I can forgive it in some cases like the romance. Its escapist fantasy, but with a real heart.
Now the acting in this is great! Josephine Langford as Tessa is the young innocent who grows up, but with her own terms. She might not change much outside, except once when she considers changing herself but abandons the idea (I mentally cheered when I saw it happen) and her wardrobe is constant and true to herself. Josephine reminded me of a young Sarah Gadon, I was sometimes double taking when I looked at her because the resemblance is striking. Her acting is very natural, as is everyone’s in this, though sometimes a few of the actors take it a notch up and you remember you are watching a movie for teens.
Her chemistry with Hero Fiennes-Tiffin is warm and extremely real, it might be wish fulfilment on some levels but then again the way Hero plays Hardin is someone who has problems, some which he opens up to, but there are still things buried underneath that we still don’t know. His character could easily have been turned in a problematic one, but with the writing taking note of his actions he is not easily forgiven and the ending…well you’ll have to see for yourself.
The rest of the cast is good and we get a sense of them, but I think we’ll know more about them in the other films after this. Because trust me there is going to be more. The only problematic part I see as having Tessa’s Bisexual roommate seen as something bad with her life choices of smoking weed and the company she keeps, though I hope we get to have more character to her in the next film. And she is a good person in the end who doesn’t push Tessa in to anything except her group of friends. The film doesn’t judge her (except Tessa’s mom), but the way it is framed against Tessa’s innocence makes it seem like a bad thing sometimes. If you haven’t already figured out that this part is difficult for me to interpret then you are right. And the ending of the film will further clarify as to why I feel this way.
There is the way the story sees someone as well as what the camera tells you and I am afraid this films one fault is the way it frames her in those wild college party moments against Tessa, I suppose what I wanted was for the two of them to become much closer friends than shown on screen. Also any book to film changes that might have happened and might been clear for those who read it weren’t so clear to me in terms of her. I felt like sometimes there were parts missing in between; conversations we didn’t see and as to why Tessa would go in to someone’s car when she didn’t even know the person so well and this happened TWICE! Stranger danger was something I was immediately alarmed at when it happened and she had talked with the people only once or twice and now she was going in to a car with them? Fanfic, probably that is what is to blame in those moments.
I was sitting in a theatre full of people who had heard of this series before and who were either with their friends of boyfriends watching this – I was one of the few people without someone else there with me aka alone and single. Needless to say I heard sobbing at the end of it from all around me. It seems I am going through a jaded period now and I had but kohl and liquid eyeliner on so crying wasn’t an option for me, but I will admit that the movie hit close to home. A little too close, as I saw a little of myself in Tessa with her pretty red lace dress on (If you know me you know what I mean) and no doubt all the girls and women around me saw themselves in her as well.
All in all a recommended watch if you want to have some actual good witting in a teen movie for once and one which is filled with real, complicated life and emotions that we all feel, no matter who we are attracted to then this film is for you, just mind the fanfic and problematic viewing on the Bisexual roommate (though if it’s just a problem with me, then it just is) and by the demographic I was seated with its a good date movie as well.
Thank you for reading!