November 2nd, 2022
STARRING: PAUL MESCAL, FRANKIE CORIO, CELIA ROWLSON-HALL
DIRECTED BY: CHARLOTTE WELLS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
I’ve been a parent for nearly five-years now and I still don’t know exactly what it takes to be a good one. I have more responsibilities. I have a human that I need to lookout for, teach, guide, and financially support in his journey to adulthood. That is the job of a parent. It doesn’t always mean you’re good. In Aftersun, the directorial debut from Charlotte Wells, it’s a story of a 7-year old daughter on a vacation with her father. The experience on this vacation is just a memory, a time in this child’s life that made an impact on the father-daughter relationship, but what is going on under the surface of these characters is much more chaotic. That’s the part of growing up and when you’re a kid at the moment you can’t comprehend what is going on in the life of your parents and that sentiment is a part of Aftersun. This is a gentle moment, a story of growing up through the eyes of a child, and a film that captures the whimsical, yet romantic glow of the love we can have for our parents.
The first two images of Aftersun involve older Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall), standing in the middle of a lit up nightclub, flashes strobing around her. The second image is young-Sophie (Frankie Corio) laying in her hotel bed, falling asleep, with her father Calum (Paul Mescal) standing on the balcony. Both moments reflect what director Charlotte Wells wants us to absorb, that there is a distance between these two, and it’s a distance that could never be filled. Calum has lived a difficult life, evidently split from Sophie’s mother, but trying to be there as much as possible. They have taken a trip to Istanbul, Turkey, staying at a resort, and over the course of that week we see a window into their relationship, or at least what Sophie might remember.
From a narrative standpoint, Aftersun is about observing the moment, which involves Sophie swimming with her dad, playing pool with some of the older kids at the resort, or singing karaoke as entertainment for the night. Writer/Director Charlotte Wells has a style that is capturing snapshots. The cinematography creates an element of memory in each scene, as the camera is the eye of Sophie, from observing her father doing his version of tai-chi, to peeking one eye open when she’s supposed to be asleep. It’s a practice that helps add an element of haze, making it obvious that Sophie still has distance with her dad. She doesn’t fully know what’s going on in his life and she can’t. She’s just his daughter.
The impressive part with Aftersun is the rapport between Mescal and the young Frankie Corio. Their relationship is a perfect mixture of distant father with someone he’s instantly connected with. Through the subtle drips of Wells’ screenplay, we can pick up that Callum is struggling internally, which might be from drugs, alcohol, or something in life that created his separation from the family. One thing is for sure, the performances from Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio are fantastic. They create a natural authenticity that offers a great realism.
On the whole, Aftersun is a beautiful film, one that works more as an honest picture of a young father working to be a great dad. The shortcomings arrive in the narrative’s standard pace, at times too slow for my liking, along with the mystery of our characters. There’s still a lot more that I wish I could know about Calum. There’s great wonder in what person Sophie will grow to be. It’s very much like being a parent. There’s always plenty of mystery and I don’t have any answers for what it takes. Being a good parent takes time, it takes mistakes, and all that matters is how your child will see you through their eyes. That reality is fantastically put on display by director Charlotte Wells. Aftersun will touch the hearts of audiences and leave them with a bright glow.
3 STARS (Out of 4)
AFTERSUN IS CURRENTLY PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND WILL BE PLAYING IN CHICAGO AT THE MUSIC BOX THEATER NOVEMBER 11TH, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady