Aftersun ~ a review by Dora Endre

“I Just Feel A Bit Down Or Something.”

In her filmmaking debut, Charlotte Wells provides fading memories, fragile moments of unifying love and the inside view of a father-daughter duo’s last holiday.

The two are on a holiday in a cheap and sweet Turkish resort, enjoying some rare time spent together. Even though Calum (Paul Mescal) declares love to his ex-wife at the end of their phone call, it is obvious that their relationship is irrevocable. You get that sense from the get-go. Loads of unspoken dark details linger around. There is something behind the young dad’s ever present melancholic smile. There is something to Sophie’s big anxious eyes. She is growing into a teenager with a sense of staying at places but living in none.

“We are here to have fun” Calum says at the beginning of their holiday. At that moment, neither he nor his daughter – played blazingly by Frankie Corio – know that these are the last days they would ever spend together. Today, grown-up Sophie, remembers her father, trying to decode his lovingly weird personality and his disheartening sorrows. She is still trying to process the impossibility of getting close to someone who is silently copying with a low self-esteem and heavy mental health issues. Paul Mescal (Normal People) is magical, simple, unforced in even the tiniest gestures.

During their holiday, the duo records their seemingly mundane moments with a camcorder. Dad folds clothes on the balcony. Sophie swims in the pool. Dad listens to his favorite cassette laying in the sun. They go scuba diving. Those tapes might be raw and unfocused yet they turn out to be invaluable in hindsight. That is how bittersweet memories work, right?

The movie’s vibrant atmosphere, carefree children, the sparkling sea and dazzling pool parties are juxtaposed with the immense pain the father figure is struggling with. The silently bubbling sadness Calum keeps under the cover slowly starts drenching everything around him, including Sophie. Wells makes us think about identity, parenthood and our own things left unsaid.

I believe, there are not nearly enough movies tackling that complex and engaging relationship fathers and daughters share. Generally speaking, I would be happy to see more films focusing on parenthood with the father figure in their centre.

Scottish writer-director, Charles Wells, bravely opens his feature filmmaking career with a largely autobiographical story. She serves it with a variety of textures, moving simplicity, strange creative choices and no excess material. She is inventive yet sometimes the ratio, for letting the story flow and for experimenting with distracting framing and aesthetic choices, is off. Moreover, there is inconsistency in the color correction of certain sequences – for instance, while Calum and a fellow vacationer converse on a boat. Though the execution sometimes falls short, time – and a bigger budget – will certainly soften those edges.

The last ten minutes of Aftersun are worth all the money in the world. Time and space blurs in Wells’ reoccurring disco scene. Bodies and actions fade, emotions and sensations stay as we are left with a pounding heart.

Aftersun is available on Apple TV, Amazon, VUDU, Redbox and Google Play.

~ by Dora Endre ~