Based on Anna Todd books, After is a romantic drama film series that has released five titles so far. In all the films, there are two characters that remain constant, even though the casting of the supporting actors keeps changing. Hardin Scott and Tessa Young were constants who went through their own journey of falling in and out of their relationship, which shaped them as human beings ready to face the world. Only one person out of the two was mature enough to make the right decision, and that was Tessa. Being the younger of two did not stop her from having a sensible head on her shoulder.
Tessa’s story began as a girl in her late teens moving to college and having a high school sweetheart by her side as well. Tessa’s mother and herself have remained each other’s constants so far, and her life so far has been decided. Tessa was content with this kind of life until she met Hardin Scott. Hardin was a college senior, but he was enamored by her innocence. Hardin was always known for being the bad boy. Unlike other women, Tessa was not afraid of him and chose to stay away until he approached her. Since she was a virgin, his touch tantalized her, and his presence felt like a foreign body presence that made her feverish. She essentially had to break up with her high school sweetheart over her infidelity.
Being a woman with a conscience, she initially chose to stay away from Hardin, but fate had other plans. They became friends and eventually fell in love. Tessa was the kind of girl who was used to her mother making plans for her, but having Hardin around felt new and different—something she had not experienced before. Their courtship during her first year in college had its ups and downs, and she spent it trying to understand Hardin’s complex personality. She also became good friends with Hardin’s soon-to-be stepbrother, Landon, who was helping her with not just studies but also informed her about his brother’s complicated relationship with his mother and father. As a girlfriend, she was supportive, but Hardin managed to break her heart. Tessa, who was a business major, changed her mind and switched to literature. She loved reading books, and Hardin encouraged her to pursue her plan to change her major. Things were smooth between them, until it wasn’t. Tessa broke up with him over him, breaking her trust, and she was never the same.
Right after the breakup, she took up a paid internship at Vance Publishing in the hope of streamlining her career in the field of writing. Tessa had hoped to never get back with Hardin, but soon into her job, she began missing him. They ended up sleeping with each other, but she was worried about offering commitment again to the man who broke her heart. Tessa was sure about her career, but her personal life was a mess, and she could not decide about Hardin.
Trevor, Tessa’s colleague at the publishing house and an old friend of Hardin, had developed feelings for her. Tessa met with an accident, which changed her perspective on Hardin and the love she had for him. She dealt with the fact that Hardin had moved to London and might not return. To her surprise, he returned to make amends and work towards their relationship. This was unexpected because she had decided to take up the offer given by her employers to work on a project in Seattle.
Tessa was never willing to change any plans that would affect her career. Even though Hardin did not want her to make the big move, he eventually had to work around her plans as Hardin had no future for himself. Tessa had to deal with his moodiness, complexities, and willingness to multitask, which is typical of what a woman is expected to do. Hardin expected Tessa to be his constant even though he pushed her away multiple times and was hoping she would wait for him.
Tessa’s relationship with her mother deteriorated because she had made up her mind about Hardin. The mother also kept Tessa’s father from meeting her as well. Tessa eventually ran into her father, who had become homeless. As his only daughter and because she had not seen her father Richard in a very long time, she was willing to believe his words. She went out of her way to help her father as a way to make amends for the past.
Tessa planned to head to London to be with Hardin as they attend his mother’s wedding. Tessa, sadly, was not given enough respect from Hardin for tolerating his fluctuating behavior and his anger issues. Even though he claimed she was the reason for his changed behavior, the onus on a woman to change a man is too much, and the whole trope was cliched. Tessa was subjected to Hardin’s insecurities, and she was expected to be the guide that would pull him out of his misery.
Their relationship was tested when Hardin met his biological father and started to understand his state of mind. His inability to deal with the issue as usual made her choose her career over the relationship and move to Seattle to begin work on her project. Amidst her big moving plan, she discovered her father had passed away in her apartment, and it took forever to get over the tragedy. Even though Hardin was trying to be there for her, she rejected his moves because she had lost trust in him. Tessa knew Hardin would make everything about himself and forget her pain of having lost a parent.
Tessa revealed her plan to move to New York City with Landon and his girlfriend. It was a way to move on, possibly stay away from Hardin, and try to find a life outside of their relationship. Tessa wanted to end the relationship because she saw signs of things that were making the relationship weaker rather than stronger. Their constant falling apart bothered her, and it made her want to seek things that would make her internally happy. Tessa was tired of the constant fights and insecurities and the fact that they lacked respect for each other after having briefly cheated on each other. Tessa had also learned from her gynecologist that her chances of having kids were bleak, and Hardin’s reaction to the news disturbed her. She expected him to support her, but Hardin again made it about himself.
Tessa and Hardin broke up before her New York trip, and for the first time, Tessa was happy being by herself, immersed in her part-time work as a waitress. After years, Tessa was rediscovering herself, and it was exciting for her. Even though Hardin showed up under the pretext of meeting Landon, he was hoping to patch things up. Tessa was in no mood, as she could see herself heading down the toxic road if she ever got back with him. His new book After, which had excerpts from their time as a couple, sealed the fate of their relationship. Tessa was furious at Hardin for not letting him read his book before sending it off for publishing. Hardin did not bother to get consent from her, which made it easy for her to end things for good. Even though she was happy for him to have become a successful author, she could not picture herself being happy with him.
Tessa begged him to move on all the while, and he tried to contact her a while after the breakup. She finally met him years later at Landon’s wedding. She was expecting to meet him and was prepared to not break down. Tessa believed she had moved on, but hearing him deliver a heartfelt speech as Landon’s best man made her wonder if the love of her life had changed, as he had claimed through text. Just like Hardin, Tessa fell back in love with him the moment she heard him speak his heart out. She confronted him about his intentions behind attending the wedding and moving back to America. She could not keep herself away from the man she met after a long gap. Tessa, even though she had made up her mind about him, changed it because she was willing to give him another chance. This encouraged him to change his mind and propose marriage to her. They had been together for many years, had been through several ups and downs, and both had seen each other through good and bad times. Hardin and Tessa get married because only they know each other inside out. Tessa and Hardin got married, and they had two children. Sadly, there was no closure to her professional life while Hardin was established as a successful writer. Tessa and Hardin had one child, and she was expecting another one. This proved all the doctors wrong, and it is assumed her pregnancy was smooth sailing.