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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Aftersun' Review: Paul Mescal & Frankie Corio Are A Father-Daughter Duo On A Holiday

Frankie Corio and Paul Mescal lie on the ground next to a swimming pool

Smoking is bad, of course, but you wouldn't want to quit cold turkey, especially when enjoying the sunshine in Turkey. It also seems that there are other things to deal with first when it comes to characters in writer-director Charlotte Wells' confident first feature film Aftersun. Set in time before phones became kids' favourite thing to explore on vacation trips, 11-year-old Sophie (Frankie Corio) arrives in Turkey for a low-budget summer getaway with her young 30-year-old dad Calum (Paul Mescal), staying at a fairly modest resort. Sophie has a digital camera with her and has some ventures on her own with other younger guests there while Calum is seemingly depressed and also stressed out about their relationship, possibly attempting to rebuild some of it with this trip.

It doesn't take long to realise that we are in very capable hands of a filmmaker that is fully in control of her storytelling as the first few scenes effortlessly establish Sophie and Calum together and separately, showing how emotionally intelligent, yet imperfect they are as people. Wells' writing allows silence to tell just as much their words do, whether it's Sophie silently observing or cutting Calum by bringing up his financial status. Furthermore, Wells continuously answers the important question ''Where do you put the camera?'' impeccably, which lets cinematographer Gregory Oke get intimate and revealing with the two main characters. Camera placement and understanding their nervous systems go hand in hand, implying somewhat faded memories with only a few physical pieces of proof in the form of videos about how they communicated with each other.

Vaguely addressing and quietly putting aside some scarily similar personal experiences that might distract from what's on the screen here, the lives that these two have, have had and will continue to have are very rich even when their actual circumstances might not be. Calum clearly recognises that he isn't able to provide everything for Sophie but knows that time and being present as a parent is something he does afford, even if he doesn't see time as an option for himself anymore. Editor Blair McClendon and Wells recontextualise their interactions on this holiday with the film's structure, using time and timing to do that, though it wouldn't be a stretch to describe some of the shifts and transitions as overstimulating.

Another important question Wells answers as a director is about putting something worthwhile front and centre and the main attraction here is Corio and Mescal's acting skills. They share natural, believable chemistry with each other but there's also sincerity when their characters decide to show or not show parts of themselves. Wells also uses the soundtrack to underscore those moments—with surprisingly few but impactful needle drops—such as in a karaoke scene with Sophie where we can see an everlasting wound emerge in real-time as she sings a song. Corio and Mescal beautifully portray how even when an image or its intention isn't clear, the significance can be felt, maybe even understood in due time.

Smileys: Acting, directing, characterisation, screenplay, soundtrack

Frowneys: Minor flaws with transitions

Lookin' a bit rug lying down there, buddy.


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