The memories of who we were as children, who our parents were and the memorable trips they took us on are long pondered. I myself have memories of being overseas with my Dad and while they seem far away now (a little too far!) my memories and the memories that exist on video tend to be a little different. This is essentially the plot of AfterSun, a stunning vacation story between father / daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) and Calum (Paul Mescal) in writer/director Charlotte Wells incredibly moving and poetic first feature film.
Calum has recently separated from his wife and decides to take his daughter Sophie on a holiday to Turkey. Staying in a run-down resort, the two must fill their days surviving on the dwindling amount of money that Calum has to live on. They spend the majority of their days in the pool, taking bus tours and the classic dine and dash that seem like fun father/daughter adventures, yet there is an undercurrent of extreme sadness to it. Something just lingering below the surface that echoes throughout the film alludes to something deeper in this relationship leading to a lot of unanswered questions (why did Calum have a cast on his arm, why did he brush his teeth before he went out to dinner?)
Both of these characters are hitting pivotal points in their life, Calum is hitting his single life and figuring out how to support himself and his daughter while being separated from her. Sophie is coming of age and moving into being a teenager and all of the complicated feelings that come with that.
AfterSun is a slow burn character piece that does take its time to get going. The slowly evolving relationship between Father and Daughter and their many awkward and adorable interactions only get more engaging as the story progresses. The dwindling ticking time bomb of a vacation coming to an end and a separation of parent and sibling is told brilliantly here by Wells. The on-going sense of dread pulses through the score that is infused with some 90’s bangers (any movie with All Saints, Macarena and Aqua gets extra points for that!)
There are times this can feel like a coming of age film, this is a complete snapshot of a moment in time, a memorable vacation that stays imprinted in Sophie’s mind for the rest of her life. This movie does take its time to actually get moving, and while this may not be to everyone’s taste, it is necessary to get a grasp on their dynamic so their relationship feels authentic.
AfterSun is an incredible debut film from Wells that showcases the human relationships that shape us as children. A slow but stellar story will capture you and make you care about these characters and their future together.
AfterSun is playing as part of the Cunard British Film Festival 2022.
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