A masterclass in serene filmmaking, Aftersun unexpectedly hammers your emotions long after the credits role thanks in large part to phenomenal performances from Frankie Corio and Paul Mescal.
In the film, an adult Sophie (Corio as a child, Celie Rowlson-Hall as an adult) reflects back on a vacation with her father Calum (Mescal), exploring and reconciling their relationship. Charlotte Wells has crafted an intensely intimate film that unfolds the plot largely via memories on tape. Corio is remarkable, playing off an equally incredible Mescal, together drawing the viewer in to their relationship. Aftersun smartly utilizes ambiguous scenes and simplistic storytelling to pave the way for the bubbling emotions at the core. There is an innocence to the film that takes center stage as the internal turmoil of Mescal’s Calum plays out in the background. The film depicts the multiple layers of our memories and our ability to look back on experiences through a different, more mature lens.
Aftersun unapologetically puts a lot on your plate without helping you find resolution, an approach that works wonders for the story Wells is telling, but will likely leave some viewers frustrated. It isn’t until about halfway through the film that you realize what is happening and that the nontraditional presentation is not going to change. It left me wanting to know more, to dive into the mind of Mescal’s Calum. In the end, Aftersun is a beautiful achievement in reflective storytelling that ensnares your attention and emotions in an exceptional directorial debut.