This indie movie has been receiving rave reviews almost universally and I just had to give this a watch to see for myself what all the fuss was about. I have to say that I fail to see what all the accolades were about. Aftersun spends most of its running time on the time spent by a young 11 year old girl, Sophie with her father, Calum, at a resort in Turkey. It turns out that this is primarily the memories of a now-adult Sophie, 20 years later, told through a combination of home videos taken during the trip and her memories of it.
To be honest, not much happens as we witness what appears to be a happy vacation between the girl and her father, as well as their close bonding. We are challenged to see and interpret beyond the surface in order to appreciate the film. Hints of things not being as rosy as they appear are dropped through casual comments or the characters’ body language and behaviour. Nothing is ever explicitly stated, and everything is left to the viewers’ interpretation of what they see. Some people may find these types of films exciting and rewarding because they believe they have decoded the hidden meanings and story behind the ordinary events on screen. This technique is tedious for me because we are left filling in all the gaps on our own because the film does not provide any form of testimony to any of the things it hints at.
One of my major issues with this story is that if the story is about Sophie’s memories of her father’s trip to Turkey 20 years ago, why are there scenes in which she is not a part of or witness to? These are frequently the scenes with the most obvious indications of her father’s implied mental state or hints of depression. Could these be her own interpretations of what happened with her father in private? How much of the story is based on her actual memories, and how much is made up by her as a result of new information she now has as an adult? Because no answers are provided, your guess is as good as mine. And, I suppose, there is no right or wrong answer here either. Just your own take on what it all means. As a result, this is one movie that is translated differently for different people, so no one person can claim to have seen the same movie because everyone will have their own opinion on what they saw or didn’t see.
This is apparently writer-director Charlotte Wells’ first feature-length film, and she has already received a lot of attention and praise for it. Aftersun, in my opinion, is far too focused on style, bordering on being overly pretentious in the process. On the plus side, Charlotte was able to wring a truly arresting and authentic performance from her two main stars, Paul Mescal as the father and Frankie Corio as the young Sophie. Their bond appears to be genuine and natural. Charlotte’s minimalistic style, as well as her tendency to keep the camera off-center, is intriguing and arresting. This is all very commendable for a first-time effort and demonstrates a level of confidence and freedom of expression found only in independent films. Aftersun makes me feel conflicted. It was fascinating to watch, but also frustrating due to the lack of information. I cannot rave about this like the other critics because it did not wow me as much as it did to others.