A hypnotic and mesmerizing quiet slice of life.
We review of the film Aftersun (2022), which contains minor spoilers.
Written and directed by Charlotte Wells, Aftersun is an exploration of relationships, specifically the one between father and daughter, and the complexities and nuances that are often so subtle they are overlooked or ignored. Shown through flashbacks and video clips, we find eleven-year-old Sophie and her thirty-year-old father, Callum, holidaying in Turkey.
Aftersun Review and Plot Summary
Plot-wise, there is a straightforward premise for the film. Callum and his eleven-year-old daughter Sophie are on holiday in a Turkish resort sometime in the early 2000s. What is not so simple is the undercurrents that run between the lines of the film, and the ambiguous nature of the narrative. On the surface it seems to be a somewhat melancholic study of the relationship between the two leads, however, if you scratch the surface of the screenplay, there seems to be something else happening that could be overlooked on an initial viewing.
It becomes apparent early in the film, that Callum seems to have some disconnect with, Sophie, despite obviously loving her very much, and it would be easy to say that this could come from the personal circumstances that affect both characters.
However, as the film moves forward, we see that we are watching events in retrospect from Sophie’s point of view. It is also obvious that Sophie is a bright and intelligent child, and she pays a lot of attention to her father’s actions and decisions.
As an eleven-year-old, Sophie is interested in everything that happens around her. We see her interact with other children in the resort, and there are scenes where she leaves her father and experiences the holiday without his presence.
The main flashback that we see, is of Callum apparently at a rave, complete with manic music and strobing lights, implying that Callum may have been part of that scene. As the holiday continues, we see the father and daughter duo attending various different activities such as scuba diving and going to karaoke.
However, these adventures are always slightly strained, and Callum often seems either bored or disinterested. By the end of the film, we see Callum saying goodbye to Sophie at the airport, There is then a time jump, and we see a grown-up Sophie, watching old video of the holiday, but seemingly upset with the memories of what was possibly her last time with her loving father.
Aftersun is a film that is careful with its script, and delicate with its themes. Watching the events unfold, in the haze of a Turkish landscape, almost hypnotizes you, slowly taking you through the small events of Sophie and Callum, gently easing you through their time together, and very rarely doing anything to wake you from its spell. There are very few moments that approach any real drama, but it is this mastery of the form that makes this film somewhat unique.
You are almost a voyeur in the audience, the performances are so natural that it feels like you are watching surreptitiously, and the tone is so ambient, that it is easy to overlook what many feel is the main thrust of the arc of the two leads. This may be a slice of life that shows little, yet when you do manage to step back, during the flashbacks and sleepy dream sequences, it shows that there was a lot more going on than first appears.
There is no sledgehammer exposition or voice-over, and you have to work a little to get to the heart of the matter, but this only makes the film more intriguing. When we, as the audience, finally start to understand the real relevance of the holiday, it is heartbreaking and haunting. We basically see through Sophie’s eyes the soul-crushing reality of their last time together, and that reveal, although never heavy-handed, leaves you as bereft and alone as Sophie is.
This is a film that proves that there are still projects out there that can make you stop and think. In a sea of franchises, prequels, sequels, and CGI nightmares, Aftersun lets you know there is originality and talent still out there.
Is the 2022 film Aftersun good?
It is hard to pigeonhole this movie, as it does leave a lot open to interpretation. There are themes that can be tackled more deftly in further articles, but if you have any interest in the medium at all, then you should watch this production.
How you react to the film may depend on your expectations of the medium. It is a quiet, reflective, ambiguous and beautiful film, and no matter which way you dissect it, it is hard not to be engaged. Perhaps the pacing may not be for everyone, and the small world that the characters exist in may leave some viewers slightly cold, but the technical precision that the film presents, has been hidden behind the ease of the performers and the director. This is a masterful presentation that should be on your watch list now.
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