Friday, April 21, 2023

Aftersun (2022)

This is an extraordinary piece of film-making, one that would be a strong recommendation to just about anybody with an interest in the ways in which profoundly emotive stories can be told in this medium. 


In her BAFTA-winning directorial debut Charlotte Wells gives us what she has described as an emotionally autobiographical recollection. 31-year-old Sophie reconstructs a holiday in Turkey spent with her father Callum, twenty years previously. 

Superficially rather inert dramatically, the film is an extraordinary amalgamation of available emotional connections which I suspect not everyone will pick up, at least not at the same magnitudes or distribution.

The cleverness of the film's construction lies in the way Wells has superimposed two streams of retrospective awareness — Sophie's direct memories of the holiday as she experienced it in the late nineties with a host of small details often at the fringes of the action which suggest the ways she has since digested the meaning of things that she witnessed or perhaps later imagined. 

From apparently trivial and disjointed moments we are led to transmute from these materials our own version of an implied bigger narrative, with even the lyrics of the songs on the soundtrack reinforcing this alchemy.

As suggested above, viewers will I think tap into Aftersun's wells of joy and sadness in accordance with their own emotional biographies. I could write a far longer piece on the reasons why I got an especially hefty dose, but then the review might become a little too personal. 

I would point to the fact that the times I felt closest to my own father during my early childhood were those when we only had each other for company, particularly during the mornings on our holidays in Spain.

I'm also sure I've mentioned before a fascination with any story set within a hotel, and I discovered here an association with another (albeit emotionally distinct) coming-of-age drama, Éric Rohmer's Pauline à la Plage (1983), an evocative, light-hearted film which sparked my adolescent interest in European cinema.




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