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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Charlotte Wells’ debut feature Aftersun is a beautifully melancholic tale of memory and connection. Set in the late 1990s (1999 if the use of Blur’s ‘Tender’ is an indicator) it charts a holiday taken by Calum (Paul Mescal) and his eleven-year-old daughter, Sophie (Francesca Corio) in a budget resort in Turkey.
More than a document of the time the father and daughter spend together in a halcyon summer punctuated with looming tragedy, Aftersun is a coming-of-age story that weaves in the power of familial love with the idea that it is impossible to ever really know the people we are closest to.
The film begins with Sophie recording herself and her father. Calum will soon have a birthday and she jokes that he will be turning 103. Calum in fact is so young that people mistake Sophie for his little sister. Partially the mistake could be made because the banter between the two is affectionately good-natured and rarely belies parental authority. Sophie also exhibits a preternatural wisdom for someone of her age. She refuses to hang out with other kids at the resort because they’re “kids” and Calum refuses to hang out with their parents because they are so old.
Charlotte Wells has spoken about the film being a fiction but also extremely personal. Indeed, the level of intimacy she renders her characters with, speaks of truth. Aftersun is a beautiful film that heralds the emergence of a major cinematic talent. There are shots that will linger with the audience because their power is undeniable. Just as a Turkish carpet tells a story that its maker weaved into its very fibres, Aftersun is Wells’ ode to the immense power of storytelling; whether those stories can ever be truly understood in the fabric of one’s particular history.