“I’ll just record it in my little mind camera.”
The people who mean so much to us flood our minds with overwhelming memories that can last a lifetime. And although we may feel like we deeply know those people in our lives, they can often be enigmas, forever hidden within the darkness of our recollections. Writer and director Charlotte Wells makes her film debut with Aftersun, a film that explores the relationship between a father and daughter.
Aftersun introduces us to Calum (Paul Mescal) and his daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) as they get ready for the day in their hotel room while on vacation in Turkey. She asks him a simple question, “what were you like when you were 11?” But before Calum answers his daughter, the screen fades to black as we see him dancing in a nightclub—the flashes of light barely making out the features of his face. Sophie now fully embraced by adulthood, watches a MiniDV of this memorable vacation remembering her father in the days before he his 32nd birthday. Has watching this footage become Sophie’s annual ritual—studying her father for further clues into his life?
We’re catapulted 20 years into the past, taken over by musical artists like Chumbawamba or R.E.M. Calum can be mistaken for Sophie’s brother, as he is by some other young vacationers, but it seems like over time Calum has learned to live with such remarks. The sun washes over these two as they spend their time swimming, enjoying a meal, or visiting the arcade. However, there’s something that plagues Calum, as his heart and mind are often elsewhere. His broken wrist is a question that’s never answered, as we too are as closed off to Calum’s secrets just as much as Sophie.
The delicate storyline of Aftersun is brilliantly told by Wells, who states that she based this on memories of her personal life. Calum and Sophie’s relationship could have easily been mishandled into a more stereotypical family relationship. However, Wells not only illustrates the importance of such a relationship, but how the weight of such a meaningful one can affect the people involved. Calum’s overbearing depression causes him to face the meaning of being a good father to a young girl on the cusp of becoming a teenager. There’s so much in the details of the story, much like actual life. If we only stop and take a hard look at the moments passing by, we’d begin to understand the people in them.
Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio seamlessly take us throughout the story. From the first moment Wells introduces them to us, it’s as if we’re part of their little family, too. We’re in love. It makes the happy times all the more fun, but also makes the sad times worse. But you just can’t rip yourself away from watching it; their heart is your heart.
Those we love can drift in and out of our lives like waves among the sand, and Aftersun so clearly teaches us that the memories that envelop our minds are just that—memories. Sometimes they’re clear as day, and sometimes they’re brief flashes of what may have happened. Maybe of what we hoped would’ve happened. We don’t know when or how frequent we may have to tap into a set of prized memories, but as time goes by, that lens in our little mind camera can become broken, leaving those we’ve lost a deep mystery.
Written and Directed by: Charlotte Wells
Starring: Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio