Aftersun (2022)

Director: Charlotte Wells
Writer: Charlotte Wells
Cast: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall
Seen on: 17.12.2022

In the 90s, Sophie (Frankie Corio) flies to Turkey where she meets her father Calum (Paul Mescal) for a holiday. The two don’t see each other very often but they are close and have a good time together. Sophie also explores the resort, and the neighboring, more chique one on her own, observing the boys and girls a couple of years older than her in their flirting, making her own first attempts. As a grown-up Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) reflects on the holiday 20 years later, she tries to understand her father better.

At first glance, Aftersun is a beautiful, albeit rather uneventful coming-of-age tale. But with the relationship between Calum and Sophie, the film becomes something extra-ordinary and magical.

The film poster showing Calum (Paul Mescal) and Sophie (Frankie Corio) sitting on the beach, looking out at the sea. The image is grainy, as if taken from a video tape.

Don’t get me wrong – if the film had been nothing more than Sophie figuring a few things out during the holidays, exploring her nascent interest in romance and sex, hanging out with the older kids, it would have been a wonderful, careful and extremely atmospheric film that captures that summer holiday feeling just as puberty hits perfectly and should make Corio a star.

But it turns out, that movie is just a backdrop to the actual story and that is Sophie trying to understand her father more, both as an 11-year-old and as a 30-something-year-old new mother who watches the videotapes of the trip, the two perspectives working together to supplement each other, giving us different fractals of perspectives on and experiences with Calum.

Calum (Paul Mescal) and Sophie (Frankie Corio) huddled together in an armchair.

In that quest, though, the film manages to not really give any answers. Calum remains a cypher (Mescal should also be a star) and even when we start to suspect what could be going on with him, the film keeps any definite answers out of reach. Maybe it’s addiction? Maybe it’s mental health problems? Maybe it’s a combination? In the end, it’s not as important as the fact that he is a great father and that Sophie is asking the questions and tries to connect with him in the first place, no matter how hard it is (this feeling is expressed with beautiful strobe-lit dance scenes that feel like a dream and capture the truth of the emotions).

I was initially a little hesitant about this film because it was compared to Somewhere so much and Sofia Coppola just isn’t my cup of tea, but I’m glad that I moved past this. Aftersun is special and very, very touching.

Calum (Paul Mescal) and Sophie (Frankie Corio) lying next to the pool.

Summarizing: fantastic.


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