Andrea’s film review – Aftersun

Aftersun ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ – Review by Andrea Carnevali

Sophie reflects on the shared joy and private melancholy of a holiday she took with her father twenty years earlier. Memories real and imagined fill the gaps between as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn’t. On in cinemas now.

This striking first-time feature, written and directed by Scottish director  Charlotte Wells, follows a father and his daughter Sophie (characters apparently loosely based on real people in the director’s own life) during a holiday at an all-inclusive, run-down resort somewhere in Turkey.

The thirty-something dad is separated from Sophie’s mother, though he seems to maintain a healthy relationship with her, something which Sophie as an 11-year old, struggles to fully understand. “Why do you still say ‘I love you’ to each other?” She asks at one point. “Your mother is family” is the dad’s answer.

The film is seen through the eyes of the now grown-up Sophie, as she looks back through some shaky home video footage taken by the pair at the time.

At times the camera seems to have been left on, probably by mistake, but it happened to capture what feels like real life, just at the edge of frame, sometimes in sound only, while focusing on an opaque reflection of the couple. But the beauty of those videos is that even a fleeting look can now be paused and looked at over and over again to reveal unspoken words and hidden truths.

The film shifts from past to present capturing both the innocence of young Sophie and the maturity of her older self as she watches those images and  is now able to reconstruct pieces of the relationship, filling the gaps with her own memories, (even if some might be more real than others).

It is a loving (and lovely!) relationship and while a lot is said, there’s clearly a lot behind the scenes we can only catch tantalising glimpses of.  We see the young dad trying his best to give her daughter the perfect holiday, but at the same time he seems to struggle with problems of his own. The film never really tells us what is specifically wrong with him, but he’s clearly depressed and lonely.

Sophie was too young to fully comprehend the scale of the problem, but even then she seemed to understand the father’s need for happiness. At one point in the film she convinces a group of strangers to sing “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” for his dad’s birthday, thinking that would make him happy. As it happens is has the opposite effect.

Aftersun has a unique quality of feeling extremely real, thanks to the way it’s been filmed and two terrific performances, while at the same time has a dream-like quality to it, just like memories do, real and dreamy at the same time.

It is an often mesmerising film, which might feel like meandering and prove to be slightly challenging to some, but as it develops, it slowly peels off many different layers slowly revealing an intimate, gentle, affecting and moving portrait of a father and her daughter. It’s is a film both about being a divorced parent and being an “almost teenager”, at that difficult age when you’re too old to be playing with the kids at the pool and yet too young to understand and enjoy all the sex talks by the slightly older ones.

Wells avoids imposing any conclusion, but it’s because of this ambiguity that what we are left with by the end will resonate even more strongly.

Still out in cinemas. This is the perfect anti-Avatar antidote, if you need one. Or maybe like me you might be able to find room for both.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.

Aftersun is on in cinemas now.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

Chiswick In Film festival: Chiswick In Film festival will be back next year

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