Aftersun Movie Review: An amazing first feature film that captures Paul Mescal at his most heartbreaking

It’s difficult to think of the moments leading up to a heartbreak and not signify them. The mind too often molds memories into prophecies. Colors are selected. Emotions solidify. It’s hard to talk about, let alone imagine. That’s why After sun, the debut of Scottish filmmaker Charlotte Wells, is so amazing. She has captured the unfathomable and found the words and images to describe a feeling that always seems beyond our comprehension.

Perhaps the only way to meaningfully understand memory is through personal reference. And here Wells has incorporated an element of autobiography into a story of her own precise elaboration. Eleven-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) vacations with her father Calum (Paul Mescal) at a time in the 1990s when the Macarena was at its cultural peak. It is made clear that Calum is no longer with Sophie’s mother. He moved to England; They stayed in Scotland. This trip to Turkey, which Calum can barely afford, is a rare opportunity for father and daughter to be together.

Except we don’t see those events as they were, but as they are remembered – by an older Sophie (Celia Rowlson-Hall) under the strobe lights of a nightclub or a rave or, really, the chaotic confines of her own brain. We also see her playing and replaying an old VHS tape from the trip, trying to find some hidden truth in it After sun, in a feat, never gives it away. But this time together between Sophie and Calum marked the end of…something. We know that much.

At one point, the ghostly imprint of an adult Sophie can be seen reflected in the TV screen. What terrible thing is haunting her? Wells’ camera gently pulls us toward the telltale signs of self-discovery. On the surface, Sophie’s journey signaled the waning days of childish naivety. Her fingers touch those of a boy in an arcade. She spies through a keyhole in the bathroom the gestures of an older girl telling her friends about the hand job she gave the night before. Children bump into each other at pools and playgrounds and find a strange solidarity in the ritual nature of the package holiday.

Corio captures silent despair in a moving way. She shrinks. She smiles small. It’s the reluctance of a child who wants to show his father that she loves him, but doesn’t know exactly how. Wells draws a painful irony from the way Sophie is always in the act of documenting, snapping Polaroids and filming Calum while she questions him. When he tells her he doesn’t want to be filmed, she says she’ll “record it on my little mind cam” instead. But all the video footage in the world can’t give her the answers she needs. All we have to rely on are Calum’s casual but ominous remarks about other characters.

For all of that After sun can be described as gentle, thoughtful and even beautiful, it’s also the kind of movie that feels like it’s standing on the edge of a cliff. Mescal’s Calum carries the same seedy charm as his Connell normal people, but there are moments of sudden detachment that feel particularly heartbreaking. If only Sophie could grab his head and shake it until all the secrets came out. What’s the matter Kalum? where was your soul hurt After sun don’t let us know It doesn’t let Sophie know either. It leaves a deep feeling of longing and is one of the strongest emotions you will find in any cinema this year.

Dir: Charlotte Wells. Starring: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall. 12A, 101 minutes.

“Aftersun” will be in cinemas from November 18th Aftersun Movie Review: An amazing first feature film that captures Paul Mescal at his most heartbreaking


JOE HERNANDEZ is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. JOE HERNANDEZ joined USTimeToday in 2022 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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