‘Aftersun’ and the perils of parenting



Tara Nguyen

A drama without the dramatics — film director Charlotte Well’s debut film “Aftersun” released to theaters on Oct. 21, is a soothing but aching remark on childhood. 

Featuring Frankie Corio as Sophie and Paul Mescal as her father, Calum, viewers are thrown into sun-soaked memories of a father and daughter on vacation in Turkey. The film is both incredibly heart- wrenching and heartwarming with Mescal’s performance as a struggling but loving father and Corio’s adolescent preoccupancy. 

The film is set up as a flashback and deep reflection of their vacation together. To do so, interwoven clips of camcorder footage of the trip to Turkey and images of Sophie in the present throughout the film. This addition to the storyline itself helps the film move along in a fragmented dream-like state. Through these nontraditional camcorder clips and many scenes are shaky, they are well composed and we see the complex nuances hidden in their behavior. 

Although never said explicitly, the audience can assume that Sophie’s parents are no longer together, and her father passes away not too long after the trip. These moments of realization are often without dialogue and forces you to try to understand what they are thinking. Mescal and Corio’s performances were seamless in these moments and are able to convey their intimacy with the audience effectively without dialogue. 

For instance, there is a moment where Calum is walking into the ocean in the midst of a breakdown and Sophie wordlessly draping a sheet over his body while he is sleeping is what makes this film so breathtaking. 

With home videos and scenes, we experience much of the narrative through Sophie’s eyes, both as present day and past Sophies. These moments include sitting by the pool, playing games in the arcade and tagging along with other teenagers. We become Sophie in this film. 

This film is not about the adventures of an overly independent child left by herself and neither is it about an irresponsible father. “Aftersun” encapsulates the complexities of a father and daughter relationship, a lot of which I was able to relate to. 

The ways my dad and I bicker when left to our own devices was a lot like Sophie and Calums. And the way they make slight jabs at each other like commenting on each other’s enormous heads is what I found to make the film so intimate. 

I will admit that this film is not for those who love their entertainment to be at breaknecking speed. There are little risks made with this film, but there is value to how slow and wandering this film is. There is not a scene that is wasted.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars