Plot via IMDB
Sophie reflects on the shared joy and private melancholy of a holiday she took with her father twenty years earlier. Memories real and imagined fill the gaps between as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn’t.
AfterSun, a subtle debut feature from Charlotte Wells, shows how the parent-child bond allows for grief and growth as its natural cycle. Children grow up and move, parents die, all things die. It’s the natural state of things, the small calamities people learn to live with and bear.
Such small tragedies mixed with joys, the bittersweetness of life trails are Aftersun’s main theme— how one lives with the dark clouds that allow enough light through to not feel and see the almost blackness.
The movie is a daughter’s (Frankie Corio) recollected memories of a once tween child, now a new parent herself, living with the grief and memories of her deceased father (Paul Mescal in an Oscar nominated role). The last time she saw him, Aftersun implies, is after the happiest vacation of her life, a two week idyll with him in a Turkish resort town. It’s the dark shadow that haunts Aftersun, the happy memories and regrets from events that fate chooses to relegate to last goodbyes at a whim.
Eleven-year-old Sophie and her father, Calum are aware, even in their happiest moments, that time is passing quickly. Sophie, in particular, is trying to hang on to the last moments of childhood innocence, even when she is in a rush to experience small adult pleasures, to know the mature bloom of being a woman.
Although Calum is just turning 31, he carries himself with a semi-defeated bearing. Worry sometime swims on his face.
Director Wells doesn’t dwell on Calum’s backstory. She trusts the viewer to figure it out to their satisfaction. Wells wants to keep Aftersun totally in the present, on the unadorned memories that will be powerfully remembered in the adult Sophie’s bookend scenes that open and close Aftersun.
Camcorders are used as metaphors for the persistence of memory. The soundtrack is filled with songs of goodbyes and love lost, like Losing My Religion.
The bittersweet is organically built into the script. There are strobe disco scenes that can be interpreted as dreams or dreams corrupted into grief nightmares. Everything flows emotionally rather than logically from scene to scene. It shows the process of grief intimately.
Aftersun is not dramatic. It’s built on perception and moods. The bond is charted in small seismic shifts. Grief is dramatic enough. Memories of the deceaseds hurt and come with their own emotional drama. The acting is a natural and fluid as possible.
Wells is a lyrical visual poet and Aftersun is intent on unlocking her total lyricality. It’s a memorable film in the best and every sense of the word.
Aftersun gets a 4 out of 5, or an A-.
Director Charlotte Wells
WriterC harlotte Wells
Stars Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Kayleigh Coleman, Sally Messham
Running Time1h 36m
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