Friday 30 June 2023

Aftersun [2022]

 Scottish director Charlotte Wells’ assured debut film Aftersun is an achingly tender portrayal of memories – which can be alternately wistful, melancholic and slippery – along with gaps, overlapping recollections, ambiguities and haziness that either become more gaping with time or attain new clarity through a mix of realizations and reimagining. Interestingly, unlike filmmakers who’ve dealt on this subject with complex thematic explorations, ambitious structures, formal bravura and powerful political contexts – Tarkovsky, Fellini, Ghatak, Angelopoulos, Marker, Resnais, Akerman, Mekas, Hou, Lynch, Guzmán, etc. – Wells’ approach was disarmingly simple, her canvas decidedly small and her touch delicately low-key. It portrayed a short summer vacation to Turkey, as part of a budget tour package, taken by eleven-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) – shy, vivacious, and surprisingly matured and perceptive for her age – with her genial and oddball 30-year-old dad Calum (Paul Mescal), who’s divorced from her mother even though they continue to maintain cordial relations, whose boyish looks lead some to assume that he’s Sophie’s elder brother, and has an easy-going camaraderie with her. As we gradually decipher – through fragmentary impressions, and Wells’ gentle brushstrokes and quiet observational style – Calum has a history of drug abuse, he’s grappling with depression, he’s carrying a crushing guilt which he’s unable to figure out, and he’s struggling with existential anguish that’s barely cloaked by his placid demeanour. Their seemingly uneventful time together – making home videos using a camcorder, having light-hearted fun, lazing around, playing arcade games, etc., and beautifully brought to life by Corio and Mescal – achieved additional depths through the prism of memories as Sophie, who’s now in her thirties herself, with a wife and kid, is essentially trying to gain fresh understandings on her “lost” father.

Director: Charlotte Wells

Genre: Drama/Family Drama/Coming-of-Age

Language: English

Country: UK

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