Just last week we were invited to a special screening of Aftersun together with several other media outlets, in order to view the film which is a part of Ayala Malls Cinemas’ A-List series and the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ (FDCP) World Cinema Festival.
In this review, we will take a closer look at the film mentioned above as we look into some of its themes, cinematography, and overall emotional impact.
Aftersun is the feature directorial debut of Charlotte Wells who won the BAFTA award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer and Director. The film also stars Paul Mescal who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor during the 95th Academy Awards. The film centers on the relationship between a father and daughter which is further put into a closer perspective during a vacation in Turkey. The pair find themselves in a period of self-discovery as well as a point of further depth and awakening about each other.
Simply Full of Depth
It must be said that this honestly feels like a film that isn’t meant for everyone. If you’re into fast-paced, action-packed stories, then this may need a bit of getting used to. That, however, isn’t enough of a reason to skip out on this film. It would be a grave and dire mistake to judge a film based on its pacing. Aftersun is admittedly slow but not agonizingly so. It’s like a slow-brewing stew that simmers during long hours in order to produce the best results possible. That is exactly what this film accomplishes. I fully understand that most people, like I find myself doing most of the time as well, view films as a means of escape. So why watch a movie that gives us a look into our somewhat, at times, seemingly boring and mundane lives? It’s because Aftersun is just that — real. It’s a film that doesn’t try to mask it all with the thrills and frills and a fancy schmancy outer coating. It’s a film about a mundane activity, a vacation. A film that circulates itself around a crucial relationship — between a father and a daughter. In that lies the rub, Aftersun isn’t looking to bring you into a world you can escape from this current one we live in, in fact, it allows us to peak further deeper into ourselves in an introspective and reflective state.
That being said, the story may seem simple but there is so much depth and meaning to it all. It’s amazing how it transforms something so mundane and simple into a tale that wrecks the core of emotion and intellect. As mentioned, I saw this film with fellow writers and content creators, and my seatmate had outbursts and moments of confusion. This film brings exactly that. It’s not done with the sole purpose of confusing its viewers but is a means to further relish in each moment and to really savor and ponder over what exactly it is that we are watching.
There is a soulful and authentic manner in which this film communicates its message despite the simplicity of it all. There is even an aching and longing that is seen incredibly in each moment as we follow both of our main characters. We see the destruction that ensues internally as themes of mental health emerge and how these individualistic concerns for both characters have pivotal consequences both in the past and present. It’s beautiful to see in this vacation snapshot the withering youthfulness and naivete of the daughter and the growing depths of the father’s downward spiral. I personally love the added rave sequences which depict an unabridged, joyful, child-like version of Callum amidst all the dancing chaos. It’s basically an echo of what truly goes on within both characters.
The Academy Award nomination for Paul Mescal was actually well deserved. He absolutely nails the intricacies and subtlety that the role requires. There are moments where he goes big in the acting department with an emotional vulnerability that is just amazing to witness but the moments that indeed count the most are those that seem to barely need any effort but just land so beautifully in its rawness and simplicity.
The cinematography of this film is absolutely on-point as well. It’s a showcase of incredible filmmaking to be quite honest. A variation of film techniques is utilized to their fullest form. From long-lingering shots to variations in style, this is a film that fully embraces its identity and is not afraid to brag about it. You get shots dispersed and injected at times that feel a bit perplexing but eventually, it all becomes very clear. The rave sequences for example appear quite suddenly at times but its sporadic nature adds to the poetic and artistic tone of the film. Sometimes, when artistry is showcased it doesn’t really make sense or even forced at times. Aftersun is an example of a film that doesn’t dive into being artsy for the sake of doing so, but every moment and scene has been strategically chosen to further drive home the point of the story.
The balance and variety in the shots also serve as nice breathers from everything else that goes on and it keeps the film alive and fresh despite its slower pace. I was honestly surprised to be so glued and enthralled with every moment that goes on in this film despite it being very different tonality and pacing-wise. I mainly fell in love with one specific scene towards the end of the film where we see Callum and his daughter share a dance on the last night of their vacation. Pair the beautiful scene with an amazing version of “Under Pressure” which up until now is one of the best and most enthralling sequences that I have seen in film as of late. It was just perfect.
Aftersun Review: Final Verdict
Hype Meter: 4/10
- Acting performances of the main cast, specifically that of Paul Mescal
- Change of pace is still very much appreciated
- A simple but emotional story
- Visual choices and variety
- There is not much to fault except admittedly the pacing of the movie may not be everyone’s cup of tea
Aftersun is just a nice and simple but very hauntingly beautiful depiction of modern-day living. In its simplicity, an amazing heart-warming and heart-aching story is revealed that echoes both the sadness and joys of one of the most basic and important relationships that we have. It’s relatable and haunting but one that you just have to go and see for yourself.
Aftersun is currently showing in select Ayala Malls Cinemas as a part of their World Cinema Festival together with the FDCP. You can check the screening times here.