I had spotted After on TV while I was at Alex' over the weekend, but didn't get around to watching it. But it was on Netflix, so what the hell.
Ana (Karolina Wydra) and Freddy (Steven Strait) are on the same bus back home, and just so happen to live on the same street. Freddy's attempts to hit on Ana are thankfully, blessedly, cut short by the bus crashing. The two wake up in their respective beds, with a surprising amount of hair growth, in a town devoid of people, and surrounded by a miles high dark cloud slowly enveloping the town from all sides.
The movie only spends the first third on the question of where they are, and the remainder to figuring out how they're going to escape and the complications that arise. Like a monster that follows them out of an excursion into the cloud, and hunts them from then on. Their problems and solutions are a combination of both their childhood creative ambitions (Freddy did and does love comics, Ana wrote plays). And the two are connected by another thread neither of them realized that comes to light during the film.
I had expected the film would deal with solving the mystery of they were alone, a creepy mystery, but it was more of a tense thriller. Two characters working against a ticking clock. It worked fairly well at that. The solution to the monster problem felt extremely obvious, but I can't fault them for not seizing on it right from the start.
The thing that bothered me was the burgeoning romance between Freddy and Ana. Especially as Freddy starts off on the bus as the Guy Who Won't Take a Hint. He keeps pressing for her address, or asking why she won't commit to having a cup of coffee with him sometime, assuming it's because she's got a boyfriend. She's not interested in you, bro. And once they wake up in Empty Town and find each other, there's a lot of times where Freddy goes to do something, or tells Ana to do something, and if she asks a question, he ignores it. Doesn't answer it, doesn't even acknowledge it. Which, fine, pressure situation, but it happens so frequently it's hard not to read it as deliberate. And that could be the signal that Freddy really has no idea what he's doing, but is just pretending. The nerd who thought he'd be the awesome post-apocalyptic survivor, confronted with the fact he doesn't really know shit for dealing with this, but I don't think the film is really critiquing him for that.
The film spends a fair amount of time showing young Freddy as awkward, two "friends" who mostly pick on him and treat him like crap. We don't see his mother, but she's apparently really strict, while his dad tries to act as a buffer for a kid he doesn't connect with, rather than actually stand up for him. It feels like it's making excuses.
And ultimately, there wasn't much chemistry between them. I could see them as friends, shared a difficult experience, understand each other a little better, but they weren't believable as any sort of romantic pairing. And the further into the film you get, the more it telegraphs that conclusion, which, if you're wincing at the idea of it, gets increasingly frustrating the more they nod in that direction.