Paul Mescal Will Make You Cry Over and Over and Over Again in ‘Aftersun’

A24

A24

It’s fun to see the world through the eyes of a 12-year-old again. We were all so young once, and though After sun Focusing on the memories of a particular young girl, the story taps into a tenderness that many (hopefully all) can remember. Disgusted barking over oily sunscreen. Overchlorinated water shoots up your nostrils and burns your brain while playing pool games. Kiddy mocktails. Laughing at dad’s bad dance moves, half embarrassed, half in adoration.

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Charlotte Wells’ debut film traces the director’s similar memories of her father, an “emotional autobiography” constructed from old camcorder tapes and every tiny scene her brain can spit out. Her avatar is a girl named Sophie – played by cheerful young Frankie Corio and Celia Rowlson-Hall watching from afar in her older years – who is on a summer vacation in Turkey with her father Calum (Paul Mescal).

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Except that Calum isn’t really a father; He’s clearly a father. mescal emotional like a young papa with every step: awkward to us normal viewers, but like a god to his sweet little daughter. He hesitates between the terms Sophie “bub” and “poppet”. Making Paul Mescal, the sensitive hunk, can’t be easy normal people and boyfriend of Phoebe Bridgers, totally unattractive, but cargo shorts will do. He’s a dad, and a dad on vacation at that, just like every sweaty old dude you see in line for the teacups at Disney World.

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There is little action in the way After sun. In that sense, it’s reminiscent of the film Somewhere, Sofia Coppola’s similar ode to the father-daughter relationship. (In fact, the two films are so similar that Calum’s broken arm cast resembles that of Somewhere Star Stephen Dorffs. What about estranged dads twisting their wrists?) But herein lies the joy of hanging out with dads: there’s no rhyme or reason for what they’re doing, no well-fitted schedule, no three-act structure. Dads have their ups and downs, just like puberty, a tumultuous ride that Wells perfectly captures in its easygoingness.

Instead of this, After sun reads like a book with short essays about a trip to Turkey. Sometimes Sophie leaves her dad’s side, plays pool with some older teenagers, or sneaks away to share a kiss with her video game-loving resort boyfriend. Calum also embarks on his own adventures, although since the film is based on Sophie’s memories, these scenes are likely imaginary. What exactly was Dad up to during our trip all those years ago? Was he at the club? Did he dive into the Black Sea stark naked?

Paul Mescal enchants as a goofy, brooding father in the Aftersun trailer

But the film’s most tender moments are between Sophie and Calum together, especially when viewed through the nostalgic lens of old camcorder tapes. Corio and Mescal create an amazingly real relationship with each other, their chemistry as father and daughter littered with every imaginable detail. Sophie wants to paint the walls at her father’s yellow. He kind of obliges, but accuses her of dragging him into something her mother wouldn’t approve of. Sophie just giggles in response. This sounds so familiar to me – I also begged my father to give me a yellow room at his place. (He let me have one. It was lovely.)

There will likely be other aspects of After sun viewers will find it charmingly familiar – like Sophie’s obsession with a motorcycle arcade game or the baggy outfits her father continues to dress her in. Those dirty white sneakers that Sophie is wearing are certainly indicative of a father’s holiday. After sun is brilliantly observant of the ins and outs of Sophie’s youth, particularly as a young girl, and wide-eyedly examines her ticks and optimism. The way Sophie looks at her father, who certainly doesn’t understand everything yet, is the same look we might have on a steaming bowl of creamy tomato soup on a cold day. He is everything to her: comfort, inspiration, comfort, warmth, life.

Until he isn’t anymore. We don’t know the exact backstory of how 30-year-old Calum became such a young father, but it’s certainly not bright. Insights come in the way he talks about his and Sophie’s uncertain future together, his empty financial promises for Singing lessons and the fact that all the other kids apart from Sophie seem to have access to all inclusive bracelets. Instead of buying Sophie one of the bracelets, Calum opts for an expensive Turkish rug. Sophie offers him silent requests to visit more often and guiltily nudges him by saying that she misses him. The depiction of their estrangement is never blunt — Sophie doesn’t whine about Dad “never being around,” the kind of paternity clichés this film eschews.

Instead, Sophie conveys her complex feelings for her father in a much more implicit way. Sophie, for example, likes to look up at the sky because it’s the same cloudy day her father sees: “Even though we’re not together, we’re kind of together,” she says, settling into a pool chair. “We are both under the same sky. So together.”

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Cue the throat lump. I found that throughout After sun‘s quick runtime of an hour and a half, tears pressed against my eyelids that never quite fell down. My throat hurt from holding back the constant urge to cry. But alongside the tender sadness of a child who has fallen away from its parents – or vice versa – there were shimmering moments of happiness that were often even more touching than the dark moments. After sun is an emotional ride; Even though it’s quite difficult, it’s good to leave a film knowing that it touched you so deeply.

During the first 75 minutes or so of After sun We spend picking at the lump in our throats, the final scenes take it all. Towards the end, there’s a stunning dance sequence to Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” which flickers between past and present versions of Sophie as she watches her father. It’s fantastic, but nothing sticks out in my memory like the less than fantastic moment before: Sophie and Calum stare at each other, smiles on their faces and sobs threatening to break out as they say goodbye at the airport.

There’s that hard-to-describe feeling that this film captures perfectly. It’s the feeling you get when you say goodbye to someone you think you’ll see again soon, but you’re still sad that you’re going to have to leave their side for a while. It’s not a feeling hard enough to cry about — it’s not like someone just died — but you can’t get over the fact that after spending so much time with them, you’ll be alone without them have spent. The end of After sun radiates this specific sadness. I felt this way leaving Calum and Sophie as the credits rolled.

After sun Premieres in theaters October 21.

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