Aftersun (2022) (2022)
December 9, 2022 1:04 AM - Subscribe

At a fading vacation resort, 11-year-old Sophie treasures rare time together with her loving and idealistic father, Calum (Paul Mescal). As a world of adolescence creeps into view, beyond her eye Calum struggles under the weight of life outside of fatherhood. Twenty years later, Sophie's tender recollections of their last holiday become a powerful and heartrending portrait of their relationship, as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn't, in Charlotte Wells' superb and searingly emotional debut film.
posted by TheophileEscargot (8 comments total)
Mixed feelings about this one. It got fantastic reviews, it's definitely a haunting movie that stays with you. But actually watching it, there were definitely times when I was... bored. Worth perservering with for the powerful but ambiguous ending though.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:09 AM on December 9, 2022

Hands down film of the year for me – and there were a lot of films I liked this year. Just perfectly crafted and mysterious and beautiful. I got a little bit obsessed with the plot and wrote up what I think the movie is "really" about, although as I note, the entire premise of the movie puts that notion into question.
posted by adrianhon at 3:01 AM on December 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's an interesting theory, and of course the movie deliberately leaves it ambiguous.

My main thought was that he was going to commit suicide though. That seemed to be the strongest hints given his walk into the ocean, his near miss with the bus, and his signs of depression.

My other thought was cancer from the smoking, but that seemed less likely.

I interpreted the same-sex kissing as being the awakening of Sophie rather than anything to do with Calum, but I could be wrong. I thought Calum doesn't really talk to anyone unrelated to his activities because he's lonely and depressed.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:15 AM on December 9, 2022

He's certainly lonely and depressed, yes, and the same sex kiss can definitely be seen that way.

Still thinking about all the choices the director, Charlotte Wells, made; the moments of dread and the release from that; the idea of how even documentary evidence can be desperately incomplete.
posted by adrianhon at 3:18 AM on December 9, 2022

The first ~70 minutes were too slow for me: as much as I love bookish hottie du jour Paul Mescal, there's only so many moody shots of him sleeping and diving I need.

But the ending is so powerful. I don't think anyone in the cinema got through it without crying. I had no doubt at all that he dies by suicide, not long after the film.
posted by Klipspringer at 5:24 AM on December 29, 2022 [1 favorite]

Nice commentary in NYRB.
posted by Klipspringer at 7:05 AM on February 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

I watched this last night, and I agree with others in this thread that we're probably meant to think that Calum committed suicide not long after he saw Sophie off at the airport, that his vacation with his daughter was his way of saying goodbye to her, and it was also why he'd written the postcards and told Sophie's mother he loved her. There are a few things that don't support that theory, such as him buying a very expensive rug and telling Sophie she can always talk to him about things she does as a teenager, which are the actions of someone looking towards the future, but perhaps we can chalk that up to ambivalence.

I found a lot of this movie quite boring and spent most of it waiting impatiently for its narrative to get to some kind of point, but once I'd seen the whole thing and picked up on what it was foreshadowing, I realized its very mundanity was the point. Twenty years later Sophie, now the same age her father was when he committed suicide, is still haunted by his death, and she's conning over what otherwise would have been pleasant but banal memories and trying to piece them together in an effort to understand who her father was and why he left her.
posted by orange swan at 7:02 AM on September 17, 2023

Mark Kermode is stepping down as the Observer film critic, and I noticed he included Aftersun as one of his one of the top films of the last ten years.
Evoking the finest works of Lynne Ramsay (most notably the criminally underrated Morvern Callar), Charlotte Wells’s Bifa- and Bafta-winning feature debut is a mesmerising meditation upon memory, love and loss. Superb performances by Oscar-nominee Paul Mescal and screen newcomer Frankie Corio lend naturalistic heft to the drama – you really believe in these characters, in all their myriad complexities. Building upon her work in short films such as 2015’s Tuesday (to which she has called Aftersun “a sequel of sorts, in a different place and time”), Wells directs with piercing precision and endless empathy, creating a movie that plays upon the viewer like a forgotten memory. Plaudits once again are due to the composer, in this case the talented Oliver Coates whose reworking of the vocal-only version of Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure as Last Dance is quite simply sublime.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:16 AM on September 17, 2023

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