Off the success of his breakout performance as Connell in 2020s Normal People, Aftersun sees Paul Mescal take a rather more mature character in Charlotte Wells’ debut film feature film.
The film follows Paul’s character, Calum, as he accompanies his young daughter Sophie, played by newcomer Frankie Coro, on holiday to Turkey. Charlotte Wells brilliantly constructs a narrative filled with nostalgia, while keeping the father-daughter relationship key to the heart of the film. For a debut feature, Wells is fantastic at creating an all-around breathtaking film.
The camerawork and directing come gently, with Wells letting the characters pull the story. VHS cameras, your usual holiday moments of boredom, and growing up remain at the core of the feel, but it does not shy away from hinting at problems lying beneath the script which compliments Wells’ ability as a filmmaker. Wells’ story leaves you contemplating the message once you finish it.
Two years on from Normal People, Aftersun is both a continuation but also a further exploration of the acting abilities Mescal offers. His character Calum is dealing with his own problems and ideas of manhood while at the same time trying to be a father to his young daughter. Perhaps the best scene from him comes towards the end, where ideas of emotional repression and fatherhood come into play. But the film handles the themes gently while not overwhelming you.
Opposite Mescal, Frankie Coro’s performance of Sophie is also a pleasure to watch. Perhaps her best scene is when she enquires to her father why he still says “Love you” to her mother, while he is calling her on a pay phone. Sophie, like her dad, is also dealing with her fair share of struggles such as fitting in, navigating her relationship with her dad while also having a good time, and exploring herself.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly the film stays true to its story; it is not packed with surprises, but it also is not a let-down. Mescal and Coro play well off each other as the film unfolds in a flashback. Wells does a fantastic job of keeping the film’s premise simple, but the strength of the script and directing shine in a strong debut.
Overall, it is a strong film. Mescal’s acting abilities are further explored, Coro is an actress to keep an eye on, and Wells does an exceptional job for a first feature. The film earned Mescal a first-ever Oscar nod while Wells won a New York film critics circle award.