#Oscars: “Aftersun” (2022) starring Paul Mescal & Frankie Corio

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. -Synopsis

It’s about wanting to reach across time, and to meet a loved one in an impossible space where, for once, you’re both on the same level, and you can finally understand them for who they are – or who they were. -Alison Willmore (New York Magazine)

Writer/director Charlotte Wells auditioned 800+ girls for the lead role of Sophie, before landing on newcomer Frankie Corio (who turned 12 y.o. during filming). The movie is loosely based on Wells’ own experience of a holiday (vacation) she went on w/ her father. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight; If Beale Street Could Talk) is one of the producers. I think most indies come from the heart- this is a fine example. Mescal (who just turned 27 y.o.) has garnered a Best Actor nom w/ this role- wow! Some of you may know him from the romantic/drama series Normal People (Hulu); others won’t know anything about his talent. Mescal was chosen for the sequel to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator; he will play the grown-up Lucius (son of Lucilla/nephew of Commodus). Though Mescal is Irish, here he uses a Scottish accent here.

Sophie: I think it’s nice that we share the same sky.

Calum: What you mean?

Sophie: Well, like… Sometimes at playtime, I look up at the sky and if I can see the Sun then… I think that the fact that we can both see the Sun, so even though we’re not actually in the same place and we’re not actually together… we kind of are in a way, you know? Like we’re both underneath the same sky, so… kind of together.

The time period for this movie is a Summer in the late 1990s; there are no cell phones (characters use landlines). This is a slice-of-life story w/ naturalistic acting; it takes its times and builds to a quietly powerful finish. There is great (father-daughter) chemistry btwn Mescal and Corio; they look like they are having fun (for real) doing typical beach vacay activities. It’s obvious that Calum and his ex-gf had Sophie V young (as teens), but are successfully co-parenting. Wells stated that during the 2 weeks of rehearsal, the cast/crew had in Turkey, there were 2 read throughs of the script w/ just herself, Mescal, and Corio. These scripts purposefully did not contain scenes which Mescal has alone, which focus on the depression Calum is experiencing, so that Corio was naive to these facts (just as Sophie is). We are left w/ the question: How much do we really know about the individuals who are our parents? Can we even know them? You can rent this film on Amazon Prime.

[1] It’s a slow meander, beautifully filmed, with two incredible performances, although those two highlights alone don’t create a piece that takes your breath away as much as you might like, until you sit down to reflect, and absorb what you’ve seen through your own eyes.

[2] Suffering happen more often than not in silence, and it’s the cumulative of this film’s many quiet moments that drive home one of the most effective, nuanced messages of compassion that I’ve seen all year.

This is a masterpiece of subtlety, arguably slightly to a fault, but it’s refreshing to see it in the age of “hammer over the head” messaging in movies that we’re currently living in.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews


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