A memory of a moment can be full of life and colour long after it’s taken place. Taking a picture of that same moment is never as pleasing as the actual image you see in person. When these things align, however, the result is remarkable.
It’s this ability to capture a memory years later in a film adaptation, almost as if it’s a diary entry or even a poem. Writer and Director of Aftersun Charlotte Wells have managed to capture this feeling and emotion of a memory and adapted it to the screen with utmost heart-felt perfection.
The story follows divorced and single father Calum (Paul Mescal) and his daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) on a holiday to Turkey. They have a cute bond made all the easier because Calum is so young, and often confused about being her older brother.
Making fun of the tour guide or finishing their meal and running away before paying, the two bond over some silly times. They tease each other about making friends, which results in Sophie being left to her own devices and spending time with children her own age. One of which is Toby who Sophie played arcade games with before discovering their friendship is about to lead to a first kiss.
While the summer holiday is full of all things expected, romance, sun and lazing by the pool, there is an underlying emptiness. What Sophie doesn’t realise at the time is how lost her father is, which ultimately left her growing up having little idea who he really is or was.
As Sophie grows up and has a family of her own, she finds herself looking at a home video taken on that summer holiday. She tries to piece together the father she has with the memories of the father on that holiday.
Aftersun is a film that feels more like a dream. It’s a film that displays raw emotion captured in a moment and stuck in a memory. The beauty of this film is you don’t know what it is that is unravelling before you until the moment it ends.
Charlotte Wells is the Writer and Director of Aftersun, and it feels far too real not to have some actual life similarities for her. Charlotte manages to not only write something truly heartwarming but also deeply sad. Wells uses these interesting visual displays, for example, where the image is captured partly through the corner of a mirror. Or the focus is on what is on a table rather than the characters and their expressions. It becomes as if you’re a fly on the wall relying on the emotion and connection between the two.
Leading the cast is Paul Mescal (Normal People, The Lost Daughter, The Deceived) as Calum. Mescal was perfectly cast, as he has that perfect look where he could be young enough to be fresh out of university, or he could be a young father. It plays well into the young drinking lad persona he has going and at the same time makes sense he’s a young Dad that does tai chi.
If you dig a little deeper into the character, Mescal manages to show underlying layers. It’s not only what you see on the outside, a divorced, struggling, loving, single father that might seem a bit in over his head. It’s what he manages to portray inside his head that truly makes this character who he is. There is a wealth of sadness and confusion that he doesn’t fully understand, making it a very complex character not only to play but for the viewer to try to understand.
Then there is the adorable Sophie, played by Frankie Corio. This is Corio’s first screen appearance though you would think with this performance, she had been doing it for many years. She plays a young confident child who seems to understand a whole lot more than she lets on. There are moments where she is more of an adult than the adults themselves. Corio manages to hold this innocence whilst at the same time being in complete control and not letting it phase her.
Overall, Aftersun is this clever adaptation of memory perfectly captured in a feature film. The stunning performances and a beautiful summer holiday take you on a journey you’re not sure you want to be part of. It will leave you feeling empty and lost but at the same time, a sense of love. It’s that push and pull that draws you in, leaving you undecided if you want more or less. Something of a triumph from Writer and Director Charlotte Wells.
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