‘Aftersun’ is a Film That Sneaks Up On You [Movie Review] - Hope 103.2

‘Aftersun’ is a Film That Sneaks Up On You [Movie Review]

This emotional father-daughter journey will likely linger in your heart and mind for longer than expected, writes Michael Walsh.

By Hope 103.2 NetworkTuesday 14 Mar 2023MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Occasionally, a small independent film comes along and steadily builds in acclaim and prestige.

Movie distributor A24 has built its brand and reputation around being a studio that gives a platform to new voices and smaller stories, to reach larger audiences.

Aftersun is the latest of these offerings.

From debut writer-director Charlotte Wells, the film has swept critics’ awards and even landed an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for Paul Mescal.

Beginning twenty years after their last holiday at a fading vacation resort, Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) reflects on the rare bit of time she spent with her loving and idealistic father, Calum (Mescal).

With Sophie at 11years old (played by Frankie Corio) and with the world of adolescence creeping into her view, Calum struggles under the weight of life outside fatherhood.

Sophie’s recollections become a powerful and heartrending portrait of their relationship, as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she did not really know.

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When watching Aftersun, it can be hard to discern where the story is going.

It is subtle and only particularly forthcoming during the last 5 minutes when the narrative begins to click.

The story’s emotion sneaks up on you, and it will likely linger in the heart and mind for longer than expected.

We like to remember the good parts. We want to revise the bad and downplay them to avoid re-traumatising ourselves.

This personal film wrestles deeply with the idea of revisionist reflections of forgiveness and recovery, reconciliation, and closure.

As we enter Sophie’s recollections of a holiday she took with her father, we experience her attempts to reconcile her memories of her father.

Aftersun is a raw and harrowing, yet therapeutic endeavour.

Corio is a star in the making and her performance ranks as one of the best of the year.

Mescal delivers a richly layered and deeply masqued performance that presents outward care plagued by inward turmoil.

Seeing the father-daughter dynamic go through its ups and downs on-screen is heartbreaking.

There is great joy in moments of closeness and deep sadness in hurt and division.

Wells’ creative visual choices are immaculate, and the film is absorbing in its craft.

Her awe-inspiring debut makes her a talent worth keeping tabs on for the future.

The editing, cinematography, and sound combine to create a hazy dreamscape that reflects how we think about our favourite holidays, while sanitising the less-than-favourable moments.

A particular sequence that utilises a classic home video aesthetic stands out to those with an eye for visual storytelling.

Aftersun is a contemplative and rich film worth rewatching to peel back the carefully crafted layers.

All aspects of the tale become patient and penitent, emotionally heavy and visually bright, with its reflective rumination that balances reality and fantasy.

An extraordinary film worth seeking out.

Reel Dialogue: Where do we find comfort?

Charlotte Wells’ story is a hazy recollection of memories being reminisced upon by an adult daughter.

Aftersun raises many questions about fatherhood, mental health, and grief.

Wells’ screenplay is a cathartic experience for Sophie as she fondly remembers this one last holiday. Yet, it also seems difficult for her to find any comfort.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches that those who mourn will be comforted.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

The psalms are also full of laments given to readers as a model of how to grieve, mourn and express anger.

If you are struggling with finding comfort, the Bible teaches that God is the God of all comfort, and you can come to Him to find rest.

Have you met this comforter?

Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.

Feature image: Movie stills

About the author: Michael Walsh is a Missions Engagement Minister in Sydney, and an avid film fan. His love of film is surpassed only by his love of God, and his desire to make the Gospel known.