We tend to remember the past more beautiful than it really was. That family trip to the coast from which we only have faded photos and VHS tapes left could have had a thousand problems before, during and after it, but we only remember the sun, the beach and the feeling of being immortal. ‘Aftersun’ is an absolute marvel that, using the happiest moments, is capable of reanalyzing nostalgia in a dramatic keyoffering us, by the way, the best final shot of the year.
summer vacation for you
Sophie is only eleven years old and lives far from her father, Calum, who has taken her on a vacation to an all-inclusive Turkish hotel just before she started school. From the girl’s point of view, it couldn’t be more idyllic: beach, billiards, soft drinks and karaoke with him, always funny, attentive and smiling. But the movie is a scorpion that allows you to trust before you land the first blow.
‘Aftersun’ lives in those intimate moments in which we should not enter, the conversations between a father and a daughter that are superfluous a priori but that hide the love of those who cling to their daughter as the only reason not to collapse. As the girl grows older that summer, her father grows smaller. And we only need a few glimpses of the future to understand Sophie’s later relationship with her father. Just a few seconds are capable of filling in a whole story lost between frames.
A rave synonymous with the darkness that Sophie tries to get her father out of, one last dance to the rhythm of Queen, an unconvincing kiss in the pool, a karaoke where red lines are subtly marked, one night apart. Charlotte Wells’ debut feature is a coming of age that enters very sweet, like an ice cream in the summer sun, but leaves the bitter aftertaste that only the great tragedies of life leave.
charlotte wells narrates with the security and subtlety that only great directors have, but with the addition of being the first time he has done it. The success of sometimes using a video camera moved by the actors themselves as a symbol of nostalgia and the indelible is enormous: from the beginning, these recordings are far from being a simple visual and They become eternal hieroglyphs in which father and daughter will try to find each other. over time.
But ‘Aftersun’ is also the film of someone broken who tries to give everything they couldn’t (or didn’t want) to give him. In a moment forbidden to the VHS camera, where only happy memories can fit, Calum tells Sophie that no one remembered his eleventh birthday and his mother yelled at his father to go downstairs and pick something up from the toy store. We don’t have any more pieces of his childhood, but it’s enough to know that he wants to be the father he never had, someone to remember on that Turkish vacation. Someone who dances and says goodbye at the airport without stopping filming the only thing he is capable of loving. Someone whose existence is unknown.
There are films that require further reflection, and whose criticism can be unfair if it is written with hot blood. It is the case of this one, to which I know that I will continue going around months later unraveling new layers, moments and silences: Calum telling his daughter that he can always tell her everything he does when he kisses people or takes drugs, Sophie covering her father while he sleeps naked, that song that goes wrong, an expensive Turkish rug, the countdown of the days until that island of tranquility disappears forever.
The (sad) song of summer
In a world of throwaway movies, where obvious relationships and obvious scripts are exaggerated to justify a taste for simplicity, it’s almost a miracle to come across a film as direct and accessible as ‘Aftersun’, but at the same time so intricate, evil and sad. The tape never stops allowing you to relax next to the waves, the carpet shop and the hotel bar: it always forces you to be alert before a gesture, a look, a wink to the future, a phrase that reveals a shattered soul.
Paul Mescal (great injustice if he’s not at least nominated for an Oscar) and newcomer Frankie Coro are a fabulous couple of actors who have such a strong rapport that as spectators we can only feel like voyeurs who should not be allowed to enter into that relationship parent-child so solid, so pretty, so hard to see. Yes, watching ‘Aftersun’ is very inspiring in the moment, but it is almost inevitable to end up with emotional wounds and a small void in the soul.
You will be grateful that ‘Aftersun’ exists: It could be a film about a father-daughter summer with a realistic and naturalistic style, but instead it decides to treat the viewer as an intelligent entity able to appreciate details, the future, letters, crying alone so that the person you love the most does not see you broken inside. If you have ever found clues to your life by remembering a future that was perhaps not just simple nostalgia, you cannot miss this audiovisual gem.