Thu. Mar 23rd, 2023

A holiday postcard that carries a real burden. “Aftersun” provides no less warmth than the Aegean Sea in the summer season, but also overwhelming emotions that have been meticulously woven by the director. All this in the on-screen company of Paul Mescal, known from the series “Normal People”, and the young but outstanding Francesca Corio.

“Aftersun” can be seen in Polish cinemas from February 3Source: Press materials

Charlotte Wells’ full-length debut begins with the sound of the tape rewinding on a VHS camera that records the trip to sunny Turkey of two protagonists – a father and a teenage daughter. As it happens with holiday films, they are a record of carefree moments, a fragment of reality, its shred. Due to their limitations, they do not cover everything, the complexity of relationships, problems, slowly germinating negligence or decisions that will escalate in the future. It’s all out of frame.

The director herself seems to do the same with the viewer. He gives us knowledge about Calum ( Paul Mescal nominated for an Oscar for this role) and his daughter Sophie (Francesca Corio), leaving us a little confused and with a series of questions that start to swirl more and more. Some of the answers will be revealed as the story progresses, some of them will not be given at all.

Sophie, an emotionally mature 11-year-old, lives with her mother on a daily basis, so a trip with her father is an opportunity to mend broken ties. All this in a Turkish resort, which, however, is far from the exclusivity of the ” White Lotus ” facilities. Outside the window, renovation works are underway on the scaffolding, in a word, everything contradicts the images known from the pages of travel agency catalogs.

Maybe the warm air lashes the palm leaves, and you can lounging by the pool yourself, but on the other hand, there are plenty of lounges with vending machines or billiard tables set up outdoors. So it is more of a resort from Władysławowo in the Mediterranean version than a real paradise idyll.

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However, this does not discourage the heroes from spending time together on beaches, trips, evening dinners or using the attractions offered by the facility. In this holiday timelessness, Wells tries to capture the elusive. It shows us the relationship between Calum and Sophie, and the screen is filled with the warmth of their mutual pursuit of their bond. However, let’s not be fooled by this, because everything breaks down on invisible barriers.

“Aftersun” is not a safe, sentimental story presented through the prism of rose-colored glasses. For every smile there is a tear hidden from the environment, and for a moment of carefree tension pulsating under the skin. Fortunately, the director is restrained in all this. He doesn’t cut corners, offering melancholy and eye-popping drama, but he also avoids surgical coldness and devoid of emotions. It’s a real art to balance the mood in such a way.

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She is assisted in this by assembly procedures. The recurring motif from a rave party breaks up the narrative, introducing a note of unreality and causing a feeling of anxiety and disorientation. The director also decides on a few time jumps, and fills the soundtrack with turn-of-the-century hits (Blur, Los Del Rio, REM, Chumbawamba) on the one hand, and ambient sound spaces heralding the specter of disaster on the other. All this intertwines in the final scene, in which we hear “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie in a rearranged version that breaks with the dance provenance. Brilliant – you have to see it, you have to feel it.

“Aftersun” is primarily a child’s perspective, although certainly not infantile, it is closer to adulthood. Through Sophie’s eyes, we watch the tragedy unfolding. When was the turning point and when did the cup of bitterness overflow? unknown. What is really bothering Calum, who does not stop in his quest to be a good father? Why is his arm in a cast? What he does? unknown. Like Sophie, we have to construct this reality from the scraps of information and understatements that are thrown at us.

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All this, however, makes you think. This combination of a nostalgic memory and an exercise in overcoming the demons of the past straight from the psychotherapist’s couch cannot leave you indifferent. There is tons of authenticity here, which is certainly a plus for the acting duo, who not so much act as simply “is” – and without a hint of falsehood. After the screening, you want to stay in the armchair with your eyes staring into space and plunge into thought. It will be difficult to leave the cinema and remain the same person.

By Yanz

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