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Charlotte Wells’ stunning feature debut, a standout of 2022, movingly portrays a father-daughter relationship, set over the course of a 1990s holiday.
Calum (Paul Mescal) and Sophie (Frankie Corio) are on a week’s holiday in Turkey. Sophie lives with her mother in Scotland, while Callum has moved down south. It’s a chance for the two to re-bond, which they do. But as the holiday progresses, Sophie witnesses cracks in the veneer of her father’s otherwise jovial behaviour. And as the holiday nears its end, Calum becomes tenser, uneasy about the return to life back home.
Wells spent years developing her film, and it’s paid off. Aftersun, it soon becomes clear, is a memory of a holiday, whose occasional abstract moments inform us of the lives lived after the vacation. Playfully integrating rudimentary digital camera imagery into her film and employing an immersive soundscape that occasionally reshapes popular hits from the era, Wells slowly increases the emotional intensity of the drama until it reaches its heart-breaking denouement. It’s made all the more affecting by the performances of the two leads. Mescal once again proves why he is regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation, only hinting at the turmoil Calum holds inside. But it’s Corio who carries most of the film. She portrays Sophie with an extraordinary performance of depth and range. This isn’t just one of the best films of 2022. It’s one of the finest British films of the decade so far.