Aftersun Ending Explained (In Detail)

By Louie Fecou
Published: January 16, 2023 (Last updated: December 17, 2023)

We discuss the ending of the film Aftersun (2022), which will contain spoilers and discussions about suicide and mental health.

Aftersun is a quiet and ambiguous film that explores the relationship between father and daughter Sophie and Callum on holiday in a Turkish resort. Written and directed by Charlotte Wells, and starring Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio, this is a bittersweet and poignant production that became a critical success, garnering glowing reviews for its cast and production team.

Hypnotic and haunting, this is a portrayal of loss, regret, and innocence. However, there is a deliberate ambiguity about the final act, and although it is hard to give a definite answer, we thought we would offer up our interpretation of the films ending.

Aftersun Ending Explained (in detail)

What happens to Callum in Aftersun?

In Aftersun, Sophie’s father, Callum has moments of distance from the activities and events that the pair take part in over the course of the holiday. Although he clearly has a great deal of love for his daughter, he often seems distracted during their time together. His behavior raises some questions for the viewer, and with that in mind we offer some interpretations of the films hidden and not so hidden meanings.

Over the course of the film, we see flashbacks of Callum in a club, at a rave, seemingly he is in some kind of frenetic state, and from a distance, it appears that Sophie is watching. The extent of his life outside of the screenplay is kept from us but over the course of the movie, there are several moments where Callum becomes either agitated or disassociated with the situation he is in. It is subtle, but as far as we can tell, his actions seem to imply that Callum is suffering from mental health issues.

His calm, but melancholic demeanour is ever present, and although we are never told anything, Callum seems depressed. As their days together go on, Callum often retires to his bed early, sometimes leaving Sophie on her own. In one particular scene, despite Sophie’s obvious eagerness to participate, he refuses to sing karaoke with her. Callum is also seen with a cast implying he has broken his wrist at some point, but the reason for the cast is never fully explained.

There are some lines of dialogue that explain that Callum has recently split from a girlfriend, and financially he seems compromised. These instances let us know that Callum may be struggling with mental health issues that he is trying to keep control of, and not alarm his daughter with. It is only at the films final scenes that we realise that Sophie is now grown up and is reflecting back on the holiday, while watching the videos that she took on what was most likely the last time she saw her father alive.

Her sadness implies that her father is now dead, and putting the events of the holiday together, there is an assumption that Callum may have committed suicide. The sadness that Sophie feels comes from not recognising her fathers illness, and her helplessness at the eventual outcome.

Is Aftersun based on a true story?

Written and directed by Charlotte Wells, the style of the film almost feels autobiographical. So when asked about her debut feature in a Variety interview, Wells does in fact admit that the tone and feel of the film are grounded in her own recollections, although the story itself is not based on her life. It is worth noting that Wells released a short film called Tuesday that dealt with her feelings around the death of her father in her teens. Aftersun seems to be drawn from her emotional state, but it seems that the events and narrative were fictionalised for her screenplay.

How does Aftersun end?

In the last few scenes of the movie, we see Callum encouraging a horrified Sophie to dance with him. Notably, the music playing is Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie, and there is attention drawn to the line in the song “This is our last dance.” We see the recurring strobing image of Callum in a rave and what appears to be grown-up Sophie watching in despair. mirroring her younger self’s reluctance to dance with her dad on holiday.

Later, Sophie is at the airport departing the holiday and returning to her mother, then we cut to grown up Sophie. twenty years on, in her own apartment, watching the footage on video, before switching again to Callum in the airport, holding the camcorder and almost directly facing us. He lowers the camera, then turns and walks towards his exit. It is notable that he is wearing what seems to be the same clothes we see him wearing in the strobe lit rave flashbacks, and as the double doors swing open, we can see a strobe light effect. It is never made clear about Callum’s ultimate fate, it has been left open for the viewer, but the implication is that this was the last time that Sophie saw her father, with him committing suicide shortly after the end of the holiday.

What did you think of the ending of the film Aftersun (2022)? Comment below.

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