After School is a Taiwanese coming-of-age movie about a cram school. The story has a significant LGBTQ+ focus. The main character and his best friend are teenage troublemakers. They play classroom pranks instead of taking their studies seriously. A new instructor arrives, bringing progressive views and empathetic leadership. The protagonist becomes more open-minded under his mentor's positive influence.
With many LGBTQ+ characters and themes, After School seems like a well-meaning movie. This cheerful coming-of-age tale evokes nostalgia, capturing the whimsical adventures of youth. However, the story feels cliched and reiterates corny messages. Despite the positive intentions, it doesn't depict gay topics with enough nuance. The bromance ventures into romantic territory, but the outcome of the relationship doesn't satisfy me.
After School Summary
High school drama
After School is a happy & funny film.
Is After School BL?
No, but there are gay characters.
The year is 1994. Cheng Heng is a teenager and the only child in his family. He aspires to be a filmmaker. However, his pragmatic father disagrees with his son. Cheng Heng is expected to do well academically and find a respectable career, like becoming a teacher. Cheng Heng enrolls in Success Cram School, taking remedial lessons to help improve his grades. Yet, he doesn't take his studies seriously. Instead of paying attention to class, Cheng Heng loves pulling pranks and disrupting the lessons.
Cheng Heng is buddies with Cheng Hsiang. Both attend the same cram school. Like his friend, Cheng Hsiang is also a troublemaker. Once, they started a fire and caused an evacuation. Director Wang is exasperated and wants them to quit. Yet, they choose to remain at the school. Cheng Heng has a crush on one of the female students, Chen Sih. He thinks staying enrolled is his best chance of getting closer to her. Chen Sih is a strong-willed girl who stands up against bullies. Cheng Heng likes her personality, but he's too nervous to ask her out on a date.
Cheng Heng and Cheng Hsiang live together. Cheng Hsiang comes from a poor background in an impoverished neighbourhood. Cheng Heng does his friend a favour by allowing him to board with his family. The two teens share a bedroom and do everything together. Their bond is incredibly tight. They are also close with Ho Shang, another student in the cram school. Ho Shang is the son of Director Wang. He's obedient and follows the rules. Yet, Cheng Heng and Cheng Hsiang often rope him into their rowdy shenanigans.
A new instructor joins Success Cram School. Teacher Chih stands out from the other stuffy teachers. He doesn't impose his authority on his students. Instead, he brings refreshingly progressive views to the classroom. He is open about sex education and encourages his students to think liberally. Teacher Chih is also a budding filmmaker. Due to their similar interests, Cheng Heng feels a kinship with him. He looks up to his teacher as a role model and respects his wise life philosophies.
One day, Cheng Heng has an embarrassing accident at home. He injures himself in the groin. Gossip starts around school over what happened to him. The other students speculate Cheng Heng and Cheng Hsiang may be romantically involved. These rumours aren't true. They're only best friends who live together. Nonetheless, the wrong perception of their relationship sticks. Chen Sih gets close to Cheng Heng, mistakenly thinking he needs relationship advice with Cheng Hsiang. Likewise, Teacher Chih offers guidance to a presumably gay student.
After School Trailer
After School Cast
Zhan Huai Yun (詹懷雲)
Cheng Heng is a cheeky teenager enrolled at Success Cram School. His family wants him to excel academically and find a respectable career. However, he secretly aspires to be a filmmaker instead. Cheng Heng is good friends with Cheng Hsiang and Ho Shang, calling themselves the three musketeers. Cheng Heng also has a crush on Chen Shih, his female classmate.
Chiu Yi Tai (邱以太)
Cheng Hsiang is Cheng Heng's best friend. Both are students enrolled in Success Cram School. They are notorious troublemakers who love pulling pranks instead of paying attention to their studies. Cheng Hsiang comes from a poor neighbourhood. Cheng Hang and his family have offered him boarding to be closer to school. The two teens enjoy being roommates. They have an incredibly tight bond.
Chien Ho Wu (巫建和)
Phil Hou (侯彥西)
Charlize Lamb (林奕嵐)
Blue Lan (藍正龍)
Chen Bo Lin (陳柏霖)
Nikki Hsieh (謝欣穎)
Wang Tzu Chiang (王自強)
Ho Shang's mom
Zhong Xin Ling (鍾欣凌)
Cheng Heng's dad
Wang Ming Tai (王明台)
Cheng Heng's mom
Yen Yi Wen (嚴藝文)
Cheng Hsiang's ex
Heme Liao (宸頤)
- The actor who portrays Cheng Heng's actor (Blue Lan) is the director of After School. He dedicates this autobiographical film to Mickey Chen (陳俊志), a Taiwanese documentary director.
- Ho Shang's actor (Chien Ho Wu) appears in the 2024 series Let's Talk About Chu. His character is involved in a gay romantic storyline.
After School Review
Movie Review Score: 6.6
After School is a cheeky coming-of-age story about growing up in the 1990s. It successfully captures the nostalgia of adolescence, from playful pranks to goofy misadventures. The teenage protagonists may be involved in wild shenanigans, but these scenes feel oddly comforting. I enjoy experiencing the carefree joy that is associated with youth. My favourite moments in this movie are whenever the characters behave goofily. After School excels in being cheerful, lighthearted, and whimsical.
With multiple LGBTQ+ characters & storylines, After School puts gay culture in the spotlight. It explores many relevant topics and includes a decent amount of representation. Its agenda is to educate viewers by increasing awareness of various issues. The director, Blue Lan, seems well-meaning. He has dedicated this autobiographical film to his real-life mentor, who worked as a documentary maker before his death. After School feels like a sincere tribute to his friend, honouring the LGBTQ+ themes that defined Mickey Chen's career. I appreciate the movie's sentimental value and social advocacy.
Despite its positive intentions, After School feels like a gay movie told from a straight man's perspective. It doesn't depict LGBTQ+ topics with enough nuance. Every storyline scratches the surface instead of highlighting the complex experiences. It also perpetuates shallow stereotypes. All the family scenes are melodramatic as the parents weep, lash out, and condemn their children. I don't want to use the word "performative", which undermines the movie's sincerity. Yet, some parts feel inauthentic, as if the filmmaker has a basic understanding of the gay community.
I respect the autobiographical nature of After School. However, a film with predominant LGBTQ+ themes works better with a gay protagonist. Cheng Heng isn't a compelling lead. The straight guy is the least interesting in the cast. Cheng Hsiang, Teacher Chih & Ho Shang all have more meaningful backstories than he does. Yet, the movie doesn't flesh out their one-note characterizations. Cheng Hsiang is reduced to the best friend role, while Teacher Chih imparts wisdom like a magical gay mentor. Ho Shang has an intriguing journey, but the subplot needs further development.
Cheng Heng and Cheng Hsiang's bromance is a prominent part of the movie. From schoolboy banter to rowdy mischief, their easygoing rapport amuses me. I like how comfortable they are with each other, which makes their friendship convincing. At one point, they share a moment of intimacy. I should be elated as a BL fan, yet I'm skeptical about their feelings. The story hasn't portrayed the romantic undertones of their relationship. I'm also frustrated by the outcome of this couple. Despite its LGBTQ+ themes, After School isn't interested in telling a gay love story.
After School follows the usual formula of coming-of-age tales, reiterating every predictable trope. Some emotional climaxes are supposed to be inspiring, but they feel cliched. As much as I appreciate the sentimental messages, the writing is corny. Also, we've seen similar plots about rebellious youths and prodigy teachers done before. The film feels like an old idea instead of a fresh story that reflects modern times. Overall, I still enjoy the movie's cheerfulness and sincerity. Despite its meaningful ideas, After School gets lousy marks for the lacklustre execution.
After School captures the nostalgia of adolescence, especially in the cheeky and goofy moments. However, it doesn't cover LGBTQ topics with enough nuance. The writing feels cliched and corny.
Cheng Heng and Cheng Hsiang have an easygoing rapport in their bromance. Yet, the story portrays their romantic feelings poorly. The outcome of their relationship doesn't satisfy me as a BL watcher.
The cast contributes to the movie's cheerful and energetic tone. I like how the leads are comfortable with each other, which makes their friendship convincing. However, a few performances are weak.
After School has a sad ending that involves a beloved character's death. Although foreshadowed early on, it's still sad when he passes away. I wish he had received more focus in the story.
The movie's production values look bright, vibrant, and engaging. It maintains an energetic atmosphere. I adore the exquisite soundtrack, which enhances the emotional impact in several moments.
After School is a nostalgic movie that captures the carefree joy of youth. Despite its sentimental LGBTQ+ messages, it doesn't depict gay topics with enough nuance. The writing is also corny and cliched.
After School Information
After School is a Taiwanese movie that released on July 4, 2023. It is a long film, which you can finish in around 2 hours. Blue Lan (藍正龍) is the movie director. This autobiographical film is a reimagination of his real-life adolescence.