“‘Aftersun’ Movie Review: Paul Mescal Mesmerizes in Charlotte Wells’ Debut.”
One of the year’s best films talks on how memories may be lost despite our best efforts.
Some films so vividly depict memory pieces that you feel like you’re reflecting on your own life. Aftersun, Charlotte Wells’s first film, is one. While contemplative about the past and how we remember it as we go forward, it has a lasting quality that insures it will resonate in your memory forever.
Sophie (Frankie Corio) and her father Calum are on vacation in Turkey (Paul Mescal). Just the two of them seems to suit each as they shift between tranquil repose and joyful play. No vacation can endure forever, whatever our wishes. Sophie observes the world in her clever and quirky manner. She’s at an age when she can start to make sense of new things. Her father, despite his attempts to be walled off, has regular dark times. Sophie, who cares for her father, doesn’t know what to make of a disturbed young guy. He’s not harsh, but unsure of himself and his job as a parent while figuring out his own life.
The film is endlessly patient and effortlessly balanced, creating a softly profound lyricism. Each scene between the father and daughter seems so real, you forget you’re watching a movie. Every moment’s details are simple and overpowering.
Because it finds beauty in the commonplace, a simple narrative can sing. Mescal’s genuine conversation brings out Calum’s unsettling undertones. Something weighs on him, which the film hides from his daughter, making him a complicated figure. With a little shift in face, he can go from charming to melancholy. One moment alone demonstrates Calum’s brokenness despite his soft arrogance. Corio delivers a stunning first performance despite being a kid actor.
It’s tragic how short Calum and Sophie’s time together is. She wonders why they don’t simply remain here and hop about all day. It’s a simple sentence, yet it’s deadly. Every discussion, even about mundane things, seems important in a manner we can’t always explain. The whole event has a sensation of loss, as if this moment would go away forever.
The film uses repeated home films, frequently in long segments while the two chat. Sophie is aware of her father’s grief but struggles to question him about it. By documenting these events, she appears to wish to remember them afterwards. It provides slices of life in a tiny slice-of-life image, as though slicing away time that can only be kept so much. Both are clinging to fleeting moments.
There is an almost dreamy feel to much of the picture, particularly in the glances we get of Calum while he is away from the main scenario. We only capture every other frame as he’s frozen by a strobe light at a bar. This affects how it’s utilized and absorbed over time. One sequence’s music cuts between time and space liminality. It’s vivid and accurate, showing how in control Wells is. The editing is captivating and melancholy, keeping movement.
It’s audacious how much of it becomes emotionally fleeting, but there’s no greater method to portray elusive emotions. The way the pictures burst over the screen and blur form and sensation is wonderful. This might leave some reeling, but it’s a cinematic hug that can suffocate you. It hits you with wave after wave of liveliness before throwing you off. What remains is a work of remembering that illustrates how precarious our relationship to the past is. After we’re gone, films like Aftersun will endure.
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