Aftersun is a movie that you’ll love if you appreciate the poetry of film and the quiet blossoms of budding adulthood. If that last sentence sounds like utter bullshit to you, then Aftersun is certainly not your kind of film.
A film that operates like a memory, about memories of a few days on holiday long ago, Aftersun has much beauty to it, highlighted by the intensely personal craftsmanship of writer/director Charlotte Wells and the head-turning performance by young Frankie Corio. But if you’re generally not fascinated by the little moments, the tiny details, the draw of a movie where very little overtly happens–I tend to fall into this camp–then you’ll wrap up Aftersun and want to exclaim, “What the fuck are all the critics praising?”
I normally don’t link to other reviews, but in this case let me point to the writers of a few of my Seattle-based colleagues Calvin Kemph and Chase Hutchinson, both of whom absolutely adored this movie. Both are superb writers who are willing to dive a lot deeper into film, experience it for what it is, and, unlike me, coherently explain what they experienced and why. And if you read their reviews, like I have, I can appreciate a lot of what they have to say–hell, I even agree with much of it.
The problem is: I just didn’t really care.
Corio as Sophie is an intoxicating pre-teen (?) actress; her performance feels utterly real. Aftersun needed an actress like her to work, and Wells struck gold in her casting. Paul Mescal as her father is also very good, given a complex role in which his emotions, or at least the source of his emotions, are always at arm’s reach.
But I simply was unable to get emotionally invested in these characters, or in this semblance of the story, or in the technical mastery that Wells, in her feature-length debut, puts on display. She is already an expert filmmaker, undeniable, but Aftersun simply isn’t for me.
Had I watched this in a theater, with no distractions, no cell phones or cats or random things to go, I likely would have appreciated this one just a bit more, but even still, it’s a captivating film for a lonely few. That isn’t to diminish what has been done here, because perhaps it is indeed poetry. Poetry just ain’t my jam.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.