Few movies do so much with so little as Aftersun. In the modern age of filmmaking where projects like Avatar 2 can cost a quarter of a billion dollars to make Aftersun is very much on the other end of the spectrum, relying on two excellent performances and an amazingly personal script. This is the full length debut of Scottish director Charlotte Wells, who also wrote the movie which leads me to believe that the story is autobiographical.
The film is set largely at a holiday resort in Turkey during the 2000s, although it is clear from cuts to the modern day that the events that we see from the resort are the main character, Sophie. We see her as a child, on holiday with her dad in an environment that is spot on down to the smallest details, as anyone that went on holiday to any of the typical British holiday resort destinations of the naughties will see.
We see the world through Sophie’s eyes and feel the sense of excitement and wonderment that only a child on holiday feels. There is a sense of the girl growing up and beginning to experience early emotions of adolescence when hanging around the pool with the older kids at the resort. In the interactions with Sophie and her dad, Calum, we can see that he is not as happy as he tries to lead on. Separated from her mother, often detached and swinging between trying to improve himself and erratic outbursts, it is clear that Calum is battling with some demons.
The film touches on fatherhood in ways that I’ve never seen before and that goes for the good and the bad. Tenderness and moments of depression are intertwined and it often seems like young Sophie is oblivious, but there is an unspoken connection between the two that feels so real. From the viewpoint of a child their parents are superheroes that can do no wrong and always know best, but Aftersun shows the humanity of Calum by showing both Sophie’s and his perspective. We see the fun times of a family on holiday, but also the desperation of a man who can’t seem to find happiness. Needless to say, this is a very very sad film so that’s worth keeping in mind before watching.
I won’t say too much else about the plot, mostly because there isn’t too much else to say as the film is really something to experience for the great bond between the characters and the beautiful and oftentimes sad moments that Wells orchestrates perfectly. Both Paul Mescal, who plays Calum, and Frankie Corio, who plays Sophie as a child, have such bright futures as actors and both of them have been recognised for the outstanding performances with award nominations.
I can’t recommend this movie enough although it is definitely an emotional watch and I can’t say that I’ll be rushing back to rewatch it as it’s still been playing on my mind after watching it a month ago. As far as a tender story between parent and child, it is completely perfect and I can’t wait to see what Charlotte Wells’ next project is.