"Aftersun" stars Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Brooklyn Toulson, Sally Messham, Spike Fearn, Harry Perdios, Ruby Thompson, Ethan James Smith, and Kayleigh Coleman. Released on October 21, 2022, the film has a father and his daughter spending summer vacation in Turkey.
The film featured the directorial debut of Charlotte Wells. This week marks the start of another phase of this year's awards season, where the best movies compete to earn their spots in the big leagues. We've already got our possible contenders thanks to this year's National Board of Reviews via its top ten films of 2022. So far, I've seen half of the movies on that list, with several more coming to a theater (and streaming service) near me. Today, I'm continuing that mission to see all the films on that list with the latest directorial debut that's already earning some praise. Like what I did with "Minari", I took the opportunity to watch it via A24's Screening Room on its official website. If you haven't done so already, I recommend you check out the website so you can also take advantage of this. This film caught my attention when I realized it made the NBR's best films list and earned three Critics' Choice nominations. Of course, being a movie reviewer, I had to see why it earned that spot. So was it as fantastic and emotional as the critics want me to believe? Let's find out.
The story centers on Sophie Paterson (Corio), a young girl who takes a summer vacation to Turkey with her father, Calum. During the holiday, Calum is experiencing signs of general detachment, which he tries to hide from Sophie. Years later, the older Sophie (Rowlson-Hall) reminisces about her time with Calum. This leads Sophie to discover that her loving father may have something to do with their separation.
I've been interested in watching the movie, not just because of its rave reviews. It's also because it somehow reminds me of the relationship between my dad and sister. As far as I can remember, these two together bring out the best of both worlds for my family and me. They usually like to play around with each other, which is admittedly joyful, if not a tad over the top. My dad and sister may be crazy when they're together, but that's the reason why I loved them.
"Aftersun" reflects on that relationship with a substantial amount of charm and tranquility, leading to something troubling or even devastating later on. The entire story is about a relaxed summer vacation involving Calum and Sophie hanging out in Turkey. While it may seem either relaxing or dull on paper, depending on how you feel about slice-of-life dramas, the movie offers much more than just a typical getaway. It also represents Calum internally struggling with his depression and financial issues. We see him attempting to hide his true emotions through Tai Chi and self-help books. However, their experience is captured through a video camera, which the adult Sophie uses to reflect on their trip.
"Aftersun" doesn't rely too much on the heavy melodrama we've seen in other dramas. Instead, it uses tranquility and Gregory Oke's brilliant cinematography to display these challenging elements regarding the father/daughter relationship. The result is a sublime and subtly emotional experience that benefits from Charlotte Wells' handling of its underlying themes. After creating some short films in the Graduate Film program, Wells was faced with the challenge of using her movie knowledge to direct a feature film for indie powerhouse A24. Based on what I've seen, I thought she accomplished that test.
Through her direction and screenplay, Wells crafted a well-defined portrait of a relationship between loved ones and its hidden secrets. It's very delicate, but it does take a bit to get to that point due to its pacing. Once it does, it transcends into something that leaves me something to think about regarding its message. After a good minute of processing, I was impressed by how Wells displayed it in her presentation and storytelling.
Along with Charlotte Wells, the film benefited greatly from its talented cast. "Aftersun" marks the first time I've seen Paul Mescal in any film. Mescal has been in other movies, like "God's Creatures" and last year's Netflix drama "The Lost Daughter", but this film is my first exposure to the actor. All I can say about him is that he caught my attention and never lets me go until the final shot. Mescal delivered a riveting performance that has him manifesting as a caring father with troubling issues threatening to ruin his vacation. I was also impressed with the young Frankie Corio, who made a delightful first impression regarding her role as Sophie. Based on her performance, I can see why Corio got a nomination for Best Young Actor/Actress at this year's Critic's Choice Awards. The two main leads play a role in making the slice-of-life genre endearing and attention-grabbing, and they pulled it off effectively.
Overall, "Aftersun" is a delicate, charming, and emotional reflection of a father/daughter relationship and the secrets that hide within it. This is another film that'll surely test people's patience regarding its structure and pacing. But once they give it a chance and brave through it, they'll be rewarded with a sweet and poignant visual poem that'll leave them speechless. From its great cast to Charlotte Wells' direction and script, the movie marks another great addition to the slice-of-life genre and a successful first chapter in the filmmaker's career as a director.