Sophie reflects on the shared joy and private melancholy of a holiday she took with her father twenty years earlier. Memories real and imagined fill the gaps between as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn’t.
Childhood holidays with your family can create some of the most powerful memories that linger long after the holiday has passed, and often well into adulthood. That is the focus of ‘Aftersun’, the impressive debut feature from Charlotte Wells, which follows 31 year old Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) as she reminisces about a summer holiday in Turkey with her father twenty years earlier. In looking back at this formative experience Sophie reflects on her relationship with her father and how this holiday has resonated so strongly so many years later.
The majority of the film takes place in Turkey c2001, and it is a big glow of nostalgia for anyone who went on similar kinds of holidays, with Wells magnificently capturing what a holiday abroad was like at that time and at that age. Even as her story goes in bleaker directions, it can’t help but bring up good memories for myself and I’m sure it’ll do the same for many others who watch the movie. It is led by two stunning performances, one by Paul Mescal as Sophie’s dad Calum, who is a loving and caring father who nonetheless has his demons – which ‘Aftersun’ shines a light on. He’s joined by Frankie Corio as the younger Sophie and she is tremendous – at 11 years old she is just young enough to not understand everything, but old enough to pick up on more than her father lets her in on. It is a remarkable breakout performance and both performers deserve all the plaudits they are getting for their displays here.
One of the things ‘Aftersun’ does really well is the way in which Wells uses cinematic language to tell a story about memories and how they can often be subconsciously adjusted to create better impressions of your loved ones than the reality. It is gorgeously shot and feels really ‘lived in’, with Wells content to just follow Calum and Sophie as they bond and spend time together on their holiday. I liked that it doesn’t spell things out, relying on the audience to follow the subtle cues about what’s bubbling under the surface. I was really swept up by ‘Aftersun’ and will certainly be looking out for whatever Charlotte Wells does next.
Directed By: Charlotte Wells
Starring: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Brooklyn Toulson, Sally Messham, Spike Fearn, Harry Perdios, Ruby Thompson, Ethan James Smith and Kayleigh Coleman