Film Review: Aftersun


by Cahal Smith

5 Stars

Charlotte Wells’ debut feature may be understated, but was perhaps the most profound film of 2022.

Following the announcements 2023’s Academy Awards nominations, many were left shocked by the notable omission of Aftersun in every category minus Best Actor (Paul Mescal). After watching the film, it is abundantly clear to see why its fans were left outraged by this decision.

Aftersun’s plot can be difficult to pinpoint. Its themes are rich and numerous, with love, loss, and nostalgia all coming to its forefront in a way so emotionally striking that it leaves an audience thinking about it for days. The film discovers a new emotional depth in revisited childhood memories, conveying the hazy and unreachable nature of the past.

We are introduced to the young, separated father Calum (Paul Mescal) and his 11-year-old daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) on a package holiday together in Turkey in the late 1990s. All is seemingly well for the pair as we see them cheerfully getting on with their holiday: going to the pool, going on day trips, and laughing at the holiday reps. However, all is not okay underneath Calum’s calm, gentle demeanor. Throughout the film, we see that his outward lovable nature is covering his own personal mental demons that he has to hide from his young daughter. Sophie, wise beyond her years but still a child, is seemingly able to tell something is not right with her father but cannot quite grasp why or what it is.

Scrappy video camera footage of the characters is often presented throughout the film’s 1 hour and 42 minute runtime and increases its personal nature. We see a now-adult Sophie in flash-forward scenes looking back on the footage. We can see her conflict between fact and fiction as she tries to differentiate between her father, the man that she thought she knew, and the one that she did not. This is brilliantly increased by the film’s exemplary editing and cinematography by Blair McClendon and Gregory Oke respectively, who are able to mix scenes and images in a dreamlike style and include the colour and hazy nature of memories in a way that makes the film feel relatable.

Overall, Aftersun is a moving yet magnificent reflection on human relationships and memory that will overwhelm viewers in a powerful fashion.