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Aftersun (2022) Review: Outstanding Emotional Film!

A minimalist poster for the film Aftersun

Charlotte Wells’s remarkable and heart-wrenching debut feature centers around a daughter’s recollection of a trip to Turkey.

Childhood Memories Revived: A Review of “Aftersun”

Although our childhood stories are very different from each other, accompanied by our own experiences and memories, in fact, everyone can find some similar feelings in each other’s childhood. Scottish director Charlotte Wells’ first feature film, Aftersun, makes us relive these shared childhood feelings with the exquisite performances of Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio in the lead roles. The advancing minutes of the movie, on the other hand, are sometimes filled with melancholy that comes out of nowhere, and sometimes they pat us on the back with a warm father-daughter relationship. Aftersun, which centers on Calum and Sophie, a father-daughter who came to Turkey for a short vacation at the end of the 90s, feels so real that it will leave a lasting impression on the audience thanks to Wells’ clear narration. We embrace all the nostalgic feelings left behind by Wells’ film, which he wrote based on his own memories, and follow Aftersun from British independent cinema to Turkish lands.

A tired father sleeping on the sofa with his daughter leaning on him thoughtfully.

Extending from British independent cinema to Turkish lands, Aftersun is a film that feels like a “memory” rather than a fictional narrative. Calum, 30, a single father, is coming to Turkey for a vacation alone with his 11-year-old daughter, Sophie. During their holiday in Muğla, we follow this father-daughter, whose fondness for each other is evident in every way, and accompany their worn-out memories. When we finished the film, many details such as the landscapes of Turkey from the late 90s, the sadness that Calum tried to hide, and the maturity of Sophie hidden behind his curious gaze flashed in our minds, just like the video recordings left over from this holiday, while in most places we saw the debut of a young director. We forget what we’re watching. As for Paul Mescal; itself as we know it. He brings this young man, who became a father at the age of 19 and who was able to establish a unique bond with his daughter, with all his kindness and his acting that we cannot get enough of watching. For the past few years, watching Mescal has been one of our refined pleasures. One of the most beautiful surprises of the movie is Frankie Corio, who is almost the same age as the character Sophie she plays. Corio is coping well with his first acting experience and has no trouble keeping up with Mescal.

Charlotte Wells, who is both the writer and the director of the film, mentions in an interview that she has many starting points in mind for her film and that she has difficulty choosing one: “Aftersun is in many ways a continuation of the ideas I started to explore in my first short film Tuesday. In the end, it felt like a good idea to shape the movie from here while looking at some of my old albums.” Wells also describes the film as an “emotional autobiography”, saying that the script was inspired by her own childhood and her relationship with her deceased father. This is how we learned from Wells why we compared Aftersun to a memory rather than a movie in the previous paragraph. Thanks to Wells’ nuanced direction and cinematographer Gregory Oke, most of the time, we feel like we’re turning the pages of Calum and Sophie’s family album. With this nostalgic feeling, we’re teleported to our own memories as a few generations that could catch the ’90s or meet the millennium with their childhood. The holidays of this father-daughter duo in Muğla, although made by a Scottish director, contain a lot of the geography and prove the universality of our sweet holiday habits. Aftersun is a film that feels like a “memory” rather than a fictional narrative.

A father and daughter lying down by a pool, gazing at the sky.

The Melancholy of Adult Life in “Aftersun”

Wells succeeds in bringing Candan Erçetin and Queen and David Bowie legends together in the same story. Wells, who understands being a child first with Sophie, drags us into the depths of “adult” melancholy when we least expect it. Calum, who seems quite carefree from a distance, begins to hear the echoes of being a single parent or an adult who grew up without love, as well as being an early father. Our glimpse of adult Sophie later in the movie makes every single memory we watch that much sadder. In these moments, we learn that Sophie has now started her own family and has recently become a mother with the baby voice we hear from inside. This time, he is reflected on our screen from a night when the memories of this vacation with his lost father collapsed like a nightmare. After these moments, Calum’s secret depression, his line “I can’t imagine myself at 40,” his great love for his daughter, in short, everything that is left of him turns into a pain in our hearts.

Although Aftersun looks like a small and unpretentious movie from the outside, it manages to grow up with the happiness of this father-daughter, who sometimes smiles or dances with each other with their hurtful dialogues. While Wells provides an unexpected first film experience in this respect, he puts his own signature on every page of his film, which he uses as a photo album. In the final, it leaves us with a big “post-holiday sadness” after the credits flowing on our screen. Because with adult Sophie, we witness once again how the magic can be broken when all the memories that we remember well are laid in front of us layer by layer. Very real, from a very familiar place. And as we come to the end of our article, we realize how difficult it is to find words to describe the sincerity of the film, what a warm film it is.

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Last modified: July 8, 2023